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The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HZMB), officially the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge, is a 55-kilometre (34 mi) bridge–tunnel system consisting of a series of three cable-stayed bridges, an undersea tunnel, and four artificial islands. It is both the longest sea crossing[5][6] and the longest open-sea fixed link on earth. The HZMB spans the Lingding and Jiuzhou channels, connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai—three major cities on the Pearl River Delta.[7][8]

Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

港珠澳大橋
港珠澳大桥
Ponte Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau
West section of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (20180902174105).jpg
Coordinates 22°17′N 113°47′E / 22.28°N 113.78°E / 22.28; 113.78Coordinates: 22°17′N 113°47′E / 22.28°N 113.78°E / 22.28; 113.78
Carries6 lanes of the China Expwy G94 sign with name.png G94 Pearl River Delta Ring Expressway
Crosses
LocalePearl River Delta
Official nameHong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge
Other name(s)HZMB
Websitehzmb.org (Mainland)
hzmb.gov.hk (Hong Kong)
dsat.gov.mo/hzmb (Macau)
Characteristics
DesignBridge–tunnel system
Total length55 kilometres (34 mi)
No. of spans3
No. of lanes6
Design life120 years
History
Construction start15 December 2009
Construction end6 February 2018[1]
Construction cost127 billion yuan (US$18.8 billion)[2]
Inaugurated23 October 2018
Opened24 October 2018, 09:00 UTC/GMT+8 [3][4]
Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge
HZMB route.svg
Map of the bridge highway and the undersea tunnel (shown dotted) route of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, between Hong Kong and Macau.
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese港珠澳大橋
Simplified Chinese港珠澳大桥
Jyutpinggong2 zyu1 ou3 daai6 kiu4
Hanyu PinyinGǎngzhū'ào Dàqiáo
Portuguese name
PortuguesePonte Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau

The HZMB was designed to last for 120 years and cost 127 billion yuan (US$18.8 billion) to build.[2] The cost of constructing the Main Bridge was estimated at 51.1 billion yuan (US$7.56 billion) funded by bank loans and shared among the governments of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.[9]

Originally set to be opened to traffic in late 2016,[10][11][12] the structure was completed on 6 February 2018[1] and journalists were subsequently taken for a ride over the bridge.[13][14] On 24 October 2018, the HZMB was opened to the public after its inauguration a day earlier by Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China.[15][16]

Contents

PlanningEdit

BackgroundEdit

Hopewell Holdings founder and then-managing director Gordon Wu proposed the concept of a bridge-tunnel linking China, Hong Kong and Macau in the 1980s.[17] Wu stated that he got the idea in 1983 from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel. In 1988, Wu pitched the concept to Guangdong and Beijing officials. He envisaged a link farther north than the current design, beginning at Black Point near Tuen Mun, Hong Kong and crossing the Pearl River estuary via Neilingding Island and Qi'ao Island. His proposed bridge would have ended at the Chinese village of Tangjia, and a new road would have continued south through Zhuhai before terminating at Macau.[18] Discussions stalled after the Tiananmen Square massacre in mid-1989 "unnerved" Wu and other foreign investors, and caused Hopewell's Hong Kong share prices to plunge.[19]

The route proposed by Wu was promoted by the Zhuhai government under the name Lingdingyang Bridge. In the mid-1990s, Zhuhai built a bridge between the mainland and Qi'ao Island that was intended as the first phase of this route, though the full scheme had not been approved by either the Chinese or Hong Kong governments at the time.[20] China's central government showed support for this project on 30 December 1997.[21] The new Hong Kong government was reticent, stating that it was still awaiting cross-border traffic study results, and Hong Kong media questioned the environmental impact of the project with regard to air pollution, traffic and marine life.[22]

In December 2001, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong passed a motion urging the Administration to develop the logistics industry including the construction of a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao. In September 2002, the China/Hong Kong Conference on Co-ordination of Major Infrastructure Projects agreed to a joint study on a transport link between Hong Kong and Pearl River West.[23]

PreparationEdit

To coordinate the project, the Advance Work Coordination Group of HZMB was set up in 2003. Officials from three sides solved issues such as landing points and alignments of the bridge, operation of the Border Crossing Facilities, and project financing.[24]

In August 2008, China's Central Government, the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau agreed to finance 42 percent of the total costs. The remaining 58% consisted of loans (approximately 22 billion yuan or US$3.23 billion) from the Bank of China.[25]

In March 2009, it was further reported that China's Central Government, Hong Kong and Macau agreed to finance 22 percent of the total costs. The remaining 78 percent consisted of loans (approximately 57.3 billion yuan or US$8.4 billion) from a consortium of banks led by Bank of China.[26]

ConstructionEdit

Construction of the HZMB project began on 15 December 2009 on the Chinese side,[27] with then-Politburo Standing member and Vice Premier of China Li Keqiang holding a commencement ceremony. Construction of the Hong Kong section of the project began in December 2011 after a delay caused by a legal challenge regarding the environmental impact of the bridge.[28]

The last bridge tower was erected on 2 June 2016,[29][30] the last straighted-element of the 4,860-metre-long (15,940 ft) straight section of the undersea tunnel was installed on 12 July 2016,[31] while the final tunnel joint was installed on 2 May 2017. Construction of the Main Bridge, consisting of a viaduct and an undersea tunnel, was completed on 6 July 2017,[11] and the entire construction project was completed on 6 February 2018.[1] During the construction 19 workers matyred their lives.[32][33]

Sections and elementsEdit

The 55-km (34 mi) HZMB consists of three main sections: the Main Bridge (29.6 km or 18.4 mi) in the middle of the Pearl River estuary, the Hong Kong Link Road (12 km or 7.5 mi) in the east and the Zhuhai Link Road (13.4 km or 8.3 mi) in the west of the estuary.[34][35]

Main BridgeEdit

The Main Bridge, the largest part of the HZMB project, is a bridge-cum-tunnel system constructed by the mainland Chinese authorities.[36] It connects an artificial island, housing the Boundary Crossing Facilities (BCF) for both mainland China and Macau in the west, to the Hong Kong Link Road in the east.

This section includes a 22.9-km (14.2 mi) viaduct and a 6.7-km (4.2 mi) undersea tunnel that runs between two artificial islands. The viaduct crosses the Pearl River estuary with three cable-stayed bridges spanning between 280 and 460 metres (920 and 1,510 ft), allowing shipping traffic to pass underneath.[37][38]

Hong Kong Link RoadEdit

Under Hong Kong jurisdiction, the Hong Kong Link Road was built by Highways Department to connect the Main Bridge to an artificial island housing the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF). This section includes a 9.4-km (5.8 mi) viaduct, a 1-km (0.62 mi) Scenic Hill Tunnel and a 1.6-km (1.0-mi) at-grade road along the east coast of the Hong Kong International Airport.[39][40][41][42]

Zhuhai Link RoadEdit

The Zhuhai Link Road starts from an artificial island housing the Boundary Crossing Facilities for both mainland China and Macau, passes through the developed area of Gongbei via a tunnel towards Zhuhai, and connects to three major expressways, namely, the Jing-Zhu Expressway, Guang-Zhu West Expressway and Jiang-Zhu Expressway.[43][44]

Left- and right-hand trafficEdit

Although the HZMB connects two left-hand traffic (LHT) areas, namely Hong Kong and Macau, the crossing itself is right-hand traffic (RHT), the same as in Zhuhai and other regions of China. Thus, drivers from Hong Kong and Macau need to make use of crossing viaducts to switch to RHT upon entering the bridge, and back to LHT upon leaving the bridge when they are back to Hong Kong and Macau.[45][46] Traffic between Zhuhai and the bridge requires no left-right conversion as they are both RHT.[47]

TransportEdit

Shuttle busesEdit

 
Shuttle buses between Hong Kong and Zhuhai/Macau
 
The OneBus Hong Kong Macau services

The HZMBus shuttle bus service runs 24 hours a day with bus departures as frequent as every five minutes.[48] The journey across the HZMB takes about 40 minutes.

The HZMB Hong Kong Port can be reached from Hong Kong by taxi or various buses including Cityflyer airport (A-number) routes, or the B5 shuttle bus from Sunny Bay MTR station, or the B6 bus from Tung Chung.[49]

The HZMB Zhuhai Port can be reached from the mainland by taxis or the L1 bus which uses historic tourist vehicles, or Line-12, 23, 25 or 3 buses.[50]

The HZMB Macau Port can be reached from Macau by taxis or various buses including the 101X bus and the 102X bus from St Paul's and Taipa, or the HZMB Integrated Resort Connection bus from Taipa Ferry Terminal or the Exterior Ferry terminal, connecting with free casino shuttle buses.[51]

Private vehiclesEdit

Currently only 10,000 permits for private vehicles to drive across the HZMB from Hong Kong to Zhuhai are issued.[52] In addition, the number of vehicles permitted to enter Hong Kong and Macau from other regions is subject to a daily quota.[53]

Since the Hong Kong government imposes significant fees, taxes and administrative paperwork on private vehicle ownership and usage to deal with road congestion,[54] driving a car on the HZMB would incur the same restrictions as current cross-border traffic. These include applying for separate driving licences for both Hong Kong and mainland China, a Hong Kong Closed Road Permit for cross-boundary vehicles, and an Approval Notice from the Guangdong Public Security Bureau.[55][56] Vehicle owners also need to ensure they have the appropriate insurance coverage for the regions they are travelling to.[57]

In addition, to help compact Macau tackle its road congestion problems, drivers arriving from other regions are strongly encouraged to use a park and ride scheme, leaving their vehicles at a car park on the edge of Macau. A small quota of 300 vehicles are allowed to enter Macau directly.[58][59]

Economic effectsEdit

The HZMB links three major cities Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau, which are geographically close but separated by water. With the bridge in place, travelling time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong would cut down from about four hours to 30 minutes on the road.[60][61]

The HZMB project is part of a Beijing-driven strategy to create an economic hub and promote the economic development of the whole area of the Pearl River Delta, which is also known as Greater Bay Area.[62] Hoping to leverage the bridge and create an economic zone linking the three cities, Zhuhai's Hengqin area was designated as a free trade zone in 2015.[63]

ControversiesEdit

Delays and budget overrunsEdit

The artificial island housing the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) was reported drifting due to an unconventional method, hitherto unused in Hong Kong, for land reclamation using a row of circular steel cells pile-driven into the mud and filled with inert material to form a seawall.[64]

The drifting of parts of the reclaimed island allegedly caused a delay in the HZMB project. The Highways Department denied various reports of movement up to 20 metres but admitted that parts of the reclaimed land had moved "up to six or seven metres",[65][66][67] claiming that some movement was expected and safety had not been jeopardised.[68]

Mainland contractors also reportedly had difficulty constructing immersed tubes for their section of the project, with the director of the Guangdong National Development and Reform Commission stating that 2020 would be a difficult target to meet.[66]

By 2017, the Main Bridge of the HZMB project had experienced a cost overrun of about 10 billion yuan, blamed on increased labour and material costs, as well as changes to the design and construction schemes.[69]

Worker deaths and injuriesEdit

The number of deaths and injuries during the construction project came under scrutiny in Hong Kong. In addition to nine fatalities on the mainland side,[70] more than ten deaths were reported on the Hong Kong side of the construction project, plus between 234 and 600 injuries, depending on the source.[71] In April 2017, the Construction Site Workers General Union, the Labour Party and the Confederation of Trade Unions demonstrated at the Central Government Complex, demanding the government take action.[72]

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung also expressed concern over the unknown death toll on the Chinese side of the project, stating: "the project is known as the 'bridge of blood and tears’ and we are only talking about the Hong Kong side. We don’t even know what is happening in China. I suppose the situation could be 10 times worse than that in Hong Kong." He said that the Hong Kong Government had a responsibility to consider worker safety on the Chinese side.[72]

Faked safety testingEdit

In 2017, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) arrested 21 employees (two senior executives, 14 laboratory technicians and five laboratory assistants) of Jacobs China Limited, a contractor of the Civil Engineering and Development Department for falsifying concrete test results, thus potentially risking the safety of the bridge for public use.[73] In December 2017, a lab technician pleaded guilty and was sentenced to imprisonment for eight months, while the others await sentencing. Hong Kong's Highways Department conducted tests again after the falsified results were exposed and found all test results met safety standards.[74]

Seawall integrityEdit

In April 2018, the public and media raised questions over the integrity of the seawalls protecting the artificial islands at both ends of the undersea tunnel. In footage taken by drone users and mariners, the dolosse installed at the edges of the artificial islands appear to have dislodged. Some civil engineers suggested that there was an error in design.[75][76] In dismissing the safety concerns, the HZMB Authority said the dolosse were designed to be submerged and the design was working as intended.[77] Director of Highways Department Daniel Chung denied on 8 April 2018 that the breakwater components had been washed away by waves.[78]

Subsequent aerial footage posted online showed a section of the dolosse breakwater completely underwater. Civil engineer So Yiu-kwan told Hong Kong media on 12 April 2018 that the water level, at the time the photos were taken, was about 1.74 mPD (metres above Principal Datum), but the maximum water level could reach 2.7 mPD. He said the dolosse would offer no wave protection if entirely submerged, and further alleged that they had been installed backwards.[79]

Falling number of dolphinsEdit

Conservationists at WWF Hong Kong blamed the construction of the HZMB for the falling number of white dolphins in the waters near the bridge. The dolphins found near waters of Lantau were worst hit with numbers dropping by 60 percent between April 2015 and March 2016.[80]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit