Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge offers opportunities for trade and logistics sectors, as police beef up security for grand opening
- Security and transport chiefs prepare for ceremony, to be attended by President Xi Jinping from mainland side
Hong Kong’s trade and logistics sectors are raring to be the first winners from the cross-border mega bridge when it starts operating this week, as organisers put the finishing touches to the multibillion-dollar project to be opened by President Xi Jinping on Tuesday morning.
They expect travel time between Zhuhai and Kwai Chung port in Hong Kong to be slashed from 3½ hours to 75 minutes and, with that, plan to double the volume of cargo they move to and from mainland China.
The world’s longest sea crossing, which cost Hong Kong HK$120 billion (US$15.3 billion) and will open to traffic on Wednesday, will also ease the flow of cargo between the city and the western Pearl River Delta and Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.
Tourism will also be a key beneficiary of the 55km link, which puts Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai within an hour’s drive of each other, and with Hong Kong International Airport within similarly easy reach.
“Many manufacturers have moved to the west bank of the Pearl River. Their cargo currently has to be transported to Hong Kong via the Humen Bridge [from Guangzhou to Dongguan],” lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, representative of the transport sector, said. “That is a long detour and the congestion at the Humen Bridge can cost us three hours.”
According to the government, the distance between Zhuhai and Kwai Chung Container Port could be shortened from more than 200km to 65km and travel time shrunk to just 75 minutes.
Yick said drivers could save about HK$300 in fuel costs for a single trip taking the bridge, and they could double the number of trips made in one day.
“Some companies transporting cargo through feeder ships are expected to change their route to the bridge, as it would be much faster,” he said.
But before they get going, no stone has been left unturned in the security arrangements for Tuesday’s ceremony, with Hong Kong police scaling up measures on land and sea. The force is mobilising more than 20 police boats and 500 officers on the west coast of Lantau Island and in Hong Kong waters, the Post has learned.
“More than 20 police boats, including police launches and fast-pursuit craft, will be deployed to enhance patrols mainly in the west of Hong Kong waters and off the sea boundary near the eastern artificial island [that houses the mainland control point of the bridge],” a government source said.
On land, more than 500 officers, including personnel from the force’s elite Special Duties Unit – known as the “Flying Tigers” – and Counter Terrorism Response Unit, will be deployed to ramp up security. The bomb squad will also be on standby.
Another source said observation posts would be set up on the hills of Lantau, which overlook the 12km Hong Kong section of the mega bridge and the city’s 130 hectare artificial island that houses local immigration and customs facilities for the bridge.
Ahead of Tuesday’s ceremony, a delegation of about 100 figures, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, four other ministers and vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Leung Chun-ying, boarded a ferry in Sheung Wan bound for Zhuhai at 4pm on Monday. Several deputies to the national congress and national advisory body, and some pro-establishment lawmakers, joined them.
Lam did not respond to reporters on whether she would meet Xi.
Pan-democrats were not on the guest list. The Civic Party’s Jeremy Tam Man-ho, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s transport panel, said the snub showed mainland authorities were ignoring the mandate conferred upon the bloc’s members by Hong Kong’s voters.
Extolling the dividends of the bridge, executive councillor Wong Kwok-kin said he expected demand for cargo transport across it would be larger than that of travellers. He also highlighted the political symbolism of the mega bridge.
“The bridge serves as a bond between Hong Kong, Macau and other Guangdong cities. It is a symbol of the Greater Bay Area,” Wong said, referring to the national development scheme aimed at integrating Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley.
“Politically, it is also the first mega infrastructure built under the cooperation of three governments.”
Mao Yanhua, a regional economy expert at the Centre for Studies of Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University, said the development momentum brought by the bridge could be channelled into the mainland’s vast southwest, including the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan.
“After the bridge is open, the west bank of the Peal River is expected to receive a new thrust for opening up and innovation, and such momentum can be transmitted to the southwest as the bridge provides a new option for logistics,” Mao said, but he added the knock-on effect would not happen in a short time without improvement on the whole transport network.
On the tourism front, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the real draw was the connectivity to Hong Kong airport, just an hour from major attractions.
“There are no other airports in the world where tourists can reach the gambling centre of Macau and the Disneyland theme park in an hour,” he said.
But not everyone was as optimistic about the opening. Even though it would be convenient for commuters, lawmaker Tam doubted if the traffic flow would reach the predicted 29,100 vehicles per day by 2030, given that another bridge, linking Shenzhen and Zhongshan, was expected to be finished by 2024.
Assistant Commissioner of Transport Irene Ho Wai-yin said the government was ready for the launch of public services on Wednesday.
Ho said police would remove roadblocks and allow traffic into the Hong Kong port at 8.45am.
At the same time, three new bus routes from the airport, Yan O and Tung Chung would start running, she said.
After Tuesday’s ceremony, Lam was scheduled to visit Beijing that evening for the Hong Kong and Beijing Cooperation Conference and a symposium on Wednesday. She would then visit Hebei on Thursday and return to Hong Kong in the evening.
Additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei and Su Xinqi