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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Hong Kong, Zhuhai, Macau to hold final drill before world’s longest sea crossing opens

Bridge on track for October opening, with cities to hold three-day drill from Friday to ensure it is ready

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 10:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 3:13pm

Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau officials will hold a three-day drill from Friday at the new mega bridge linking the three cities, to ensure the world’s longest sea crossing is ready for its official opening late next month, sources said.

A state leader – most probably Vice-Premier Han Zheng, who is in charge of Hong Kong affairs, although the names of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have also been floated – is likely to officiate at the opening ceremony in Zhuhai, according to a source familiar with plans.

The start of operations for the long-delayed Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will mark the next step in Beijing’s broader push to integrate the Pearl River Delta region, also known as the “Greater Bay Area”. The multibillion-dollar bridge will put the three cities within an hour’s commute of each other.

“After the conclusion of the ceremony, the state leader, or the VVIP in our plan, will travel along the bridge and drop by Hong Kong,” the source said, adding that details could be subject to change.

The state leader was expected to pass through the customs and immigration facilities on an artificial island off Chek Lap Kok on the Hong Kong side, the source said, but would not enter the city centre or stay overnight on this side of the border.

The three governments reached a consensus several months ago that the bridge must be ready for use by October, and that the opening ceremony would be held in Zhuhai.

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Construction started in 2011 and it was originally scheduled to open in 2016, but the project was plagued by problems such as workplace accidents, a corruption investigation, technical obstacles and budget overruns.

Another source with knowledge of the opening plans also confirmed that a state leader was expected to officiate at the opening ceremony because the central government considered it a national-level project.

The central government and Guangdong authorities contributed 7 billion yuan (HK$7.95 billion; US$1 billion) to the bridge, accounting for 44.5 per cent of 15.73 billion yuan in total spent by the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau governments.

It remained unclear if vehicles would start using the 55km (34-mile) crossing on the day of the opening ceremony or the next day.

Multiple senior government sources told that Post the 51-hour drill would begin at 9am on Friday, with each of the three governments sending about 40 vehicles each across their borders. The official vehicles would travel along the 29.6km main bridge section to test the route, signalling and computer systems, passenger capacity, and customs and immigration clearance.

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A senior Hong Kong government insider said that Beijing was aiming to open the bridge by late October but that the exact date was still being finalised.

“We will treat the drill as if the facilities have opened and are fully operational. All official units, such as the Transport Department, Department of Health and Immigration Department, that are commonly needed at a control point will take part in the drill to make sure everything is ready,” he said.

“Vehicles of different kinds and sizes, such as trucks and private cars, will travel along the crossing and pass through the control points, meaning they will have to go through the customs and immigration clearance. But incoming cars to Hong Kong will probably remain on the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island after they arrive and should depart again.”

The official said the vehicles would have to travel at different times of the day to test the bridge under different conditions. The mainland side would also stage mock traffic accidents to practise emergency responses.

The Post was told that Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung would chair a cross-departmental meeting next week to discuss preparation details, while the local police force would mount a counterterrorism drill on the bridge before the facilities opened to the public.

Wang Yanlin, deputy director of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority, said a plan for the opening ceremony had been submitted to the State Council for approval. The authority has yet to be notified about the arrangement.