Congestion and bus arrangements among worries before opening of Hong Kong’s new bridge to Macau and mainland China
- Legislators visit site of new crossing, airing concerns but also expressing approval of building work
Hong Kong legislators on Saturday aired a number of worries about the city’s new bridge to Macau and mainland China, days before it was due to open.
While some worried about increased traffic, one prominent member questioned the arrangement for passengers crossing to Zhuhai on coaches.
The lawmakers, from the Legislative Council transport committee, also praised the design of the new facilities, as they visited the local section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, accompanied by officials.
A day earlier, the Hong Kong government announced the bridge would open on October 24.
But concerns over traffic and operations remained.
The sudden announcement of the opening date left Hong Kong bus and coach operators scrambling to be ready in time.
Ben Chan Han-pan, chairman of the panel, said he was concerned the areas around Tung Chung and the airport would become congested once the bridge, connecting with north Lantau Island, opens.
“From the bridge to Tung Chung, [drivers] can only use the airport road. So, only one road connects this bridge. This is quite a big problem,” said the lawmaker from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
Another road linking to the city centre via the North Lantau Highway was expected to begin services on Wednesday, but the two other roads connecting the border checkpoint to the city were still not ready.
Local officials on Friday announced the section linking to Tung Chung would be finished in the first half of 2019. The other section, to Tuen Mun, would be complete by 2020 at the earliest.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho echoed Chan’s concerns, saying the bridge could cause traffic jams around the airport.
Noting that residents would soon move in to new subsidised housing in Tung Chung North, he asked: “Will it make the Lantau Link seriously jammed?”
Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, also a member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), questioned why the Zhuhai government only allowed passengers to disembark from cross-border coaches in the port facility, instead of at multiple spots inside the city.
He noted that Hong Kong and Macau would let passengers get off at different points within their borders.
“Why would a bridge which was funded by the three governments roll out such an unbalanced policy?” he asked.
He said he planned to write to the NPC to suggest a revised arrangement.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan meanwhile said officials had failed to give details of their own internal figures on the expected rate of economic return for the city.
And while President Xi Jinping was expected to attend the opening ceremony on Tuesday, on the mainland side, pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching said fellow lawmakers in the camp had not been invited.
Other lawmakers said they were impressed by the project. Engineering sector lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok praised the construction of the passenger clearance building.
Mo also voiced her approval.
“The whole thing is seriously very impressive. It’s state-of-the-art technology,” she said.
On Friday, the government formally approved mainland ambulances and fire engines, during accidents, crossing the border into Hong Kong to carry out duties. The Transport Department said the vehicles would not be driven on any Hong Kong road other than the bridge’s link road.
They would need to return to the mainland via the turnaround on the link road, near San Shek Wan, unless upon the city government’s request during a major incident.
Addressing transport operators’ readiness, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said most of the firms which secured slots to run the cross-border services had received their permits at the end of last year.
The Transport Department would immediately deal with the rest of the applications and there should be no problem, he said.