The chairman of the only cross-border shuttle service on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is betting millions of dollars the route will turn a profit by 2021, thanks to a surge of passengers expected to be unleashed by China’s new “Greater Bay Area” plan. HZM Bus boss Zhang Guangyou revealed on Monday the firm had invested HK$500 million (US$63.7 million) in the 24-hour service. Beijing unveiled its grand plan for the Greater Bay Area – a development blueprint meant to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and nine mainland Chinese cities into an economic powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley by 2035 – last week. “At present, both Hong Kong residents and visitors are starting to familiarise themselves with our service. We hope to see profits after three years,” Zhang said. “After the Greater Bay Area measures are in place in the region, we hope people in these cities will have closer interaction, which will definitely benefit our business,” he added. Since the service was launched on October 24, Zhang said the shuttles had made 170,000 trips and transported more than 6 million passengers – an average of about 50,000 passengers per day. He said passenger numbers dropped sharply on weekdays to 20,000 to 30,000 a day. During Lunar New Year week, which started on February 5, Zhang said the daily average was 92,000 passengers, with a record 118,000 passengers on February 7. The trip takes about 40 minutes to travel between Hong Kong and Zhuhai or Macau. It costs about HK$58 to HK$63. The service, popularly known as Golden Bus because of the colour of its vehicles, had a rocky start, according to Zhang. On its first full weekend, thousands of passengers were left waiting for hours at checkpoints, raising concerns over the efficiency of the service. Zhang said HZM responded by immediately increasing its fleet from 120 to 162 buses, including about 20 double-deckers, with another 40 double-deckers expected to arrive this year. “Now during weekends and holidays, we can ensure passengers will not wait longer than 15 minutes to get on a bus. For weekdays, the Golden Bus arrives every two to three minutes,” he said. Zhang added the company had launched a tap-and-go “through ticket” for its passengers to take public transport to Zhongshan in Zhuhai port without buying a separate ticket. “We plan to expand this through ticket business model to other mainland destinations,” Zhang said. HZM has hired some 242 cross-border drivers, including three women, and more than 260 customer service staff members. Zhang said some of his drivers had moved to mainland China for cheaper living expenses. Zhang said procedures had been established to help drivers from becoming drowsy , something many companies were exploring little more than a year on from the Tai Po bus crash , Hong Kong’s deadliest bus accident in 15 years, that claimed the lives of 19 people.