On October 23, 2018, China become home of another wonder of the world, with opening of the longest sea bridge in the world to traffic, linking Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland China city of Zhuhai.
According to the English-language Newspaper China Daily, 34 miles long, The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has been completed in nine years. Bridge is crossing the Pearl River Estuary and has cut the travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from three hours to 30 minutes.
Regular motorists, however, won’t be able to drive across it and a special permit is required. According to CNN, most drivers will have to park and then switch to a shuttle bus or specially hired car to go across. Tolls range is from 60 yuan to 300 Yuan (or about $8 to $43).
The bridge is a joint project between Hong Kong, Macau, and China’s Guangdong province. The Guardian reports, the bridge is expected serve as a way to integrate the two special administrative regions into China and form a technology hub to compete with Silicon Valley.
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The bridge lies in a region known as China’s Greater Bay Area, which, according to an article by Chatham House fellow Tim Summers, boasts a population of about 67 million and a GDP of $ 1.5 trillion, on par with that of South Korea, making it one of China’s richest regions.
Hong Kong executive councillor Wong Kwok-kin has said in the South China Morning Post that “Bridge will serve as a bond between Hong Kong, Macau and other Guangdong cities. According to him, it is a symbol of the Greater Bay Area”.
The massive structure is the first major combined bridge and tunnel sea-crossing project in China and is comprised of three cable-stayed bridges with spans, ranging from 280 meters to 460 meters, two artificial islands, and a nearly 4-mile long tunnel, according to Arup, an engineering company involved in the design of the bridges and the artificial islands.
The bridge spans the Lingdingyang channel, which connects Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai, three major cities on the Pearl River Delta. There were three contributors (Hong Kong, Mainland and Macau) for the construction cost of the Main Bridge of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. All three partners provided a total sum of 15.73 billion Yuan, among which the Government of the Hong Kong SAR contributed 6.75 billion Yuan.
Construction on the Chinese side began on 15 December 2009. Then-Vice Premier of China Li Keqiang held 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.
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The last bridge tower was erected on 2 June 2016. The last straighter-element of the 4,860-metre-long (15,940 ft) straight section of the undersea tunnel was installed on 12 July 2016. The final tunnel joint was installed on the 2 May 2017. The construction of the main 29.6-kilometre (18.4 mi) structure, both the 22.9-kilometre (14.2 mi) bridge section and the 6.7-kilometre (4.2 mi) undersea tunnel, was formally declared complete on 7 July 2017 but the structure was finally completed on 14 November 2017.
HZMB is among the longest fixed-links in the world and is a major landmark in the area but there are different opinions are said about the impact of the bridge on the tourism industry in Hong Kong.
A large section of people think that the bridge will be a boost to the local tourism industry especially if the bridge contains a rail link, which will increase the capacity of passenger travel across the bridge. Another advantage is that the HZMB will also encourage more Macau and Guangdong residents to visit Hong Kong and shop there.
Conversely, some see the bridge as a hazard to Hong Kong’s tourism industry as they believe that with the new bridge there will be fewer people travelling to China or Macau via Hong Kong. Since tourism plays an important role in generating revenue for Hong Kong, a loss of tourists will directly affect other sectors in Hong Kong.
The road link of the bridge will have an adverse effect on the natural beauty of Tung Chung Bay (through which the Hong Kong road section is routed) and hence damage the tourism experience in the area, which includes the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, the Tung Chung retail outlets, and the country park walks around the bay.