Aboard Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

24 October, 2018, 05:50 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Macau operates on the same “One Country Two Systems” principle designed to safeguard local freedoms as Hong Kong

The world's longest sea bridge, connecting the semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau with the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, is set to open to traffic tomorrow.

China on Tuesday opened the world's longest sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to the mainland, a feat of engineering carrying enormous economic and political significance.

Officials have billed the bridge as a conduit to boost trade and tourism between the western Pearl River Delta and China's southern provinces, a key manufacturing region.

The project came in over budget - with Hong Kong alone investing $15 billion in it - and delayed, as it was originally slate to open in 2016.

Construction has been dogged by safety issues - at least 18 workers have died on the project, officials say.

In the past, travelling between Zhuhai and Hong Kong would take up to four hours - the new bridge cuts this down to 30 minutes.

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For other Chinese executives, it symbolically affirms China's grasp on Hong Kong - even if the views are impressive.

To Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic politician, the bridge's political significance outweighs its practical usefulness.

Hong Kong's secretary for transport and housing, Frank Chan Fan, said: "The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau". Drivers of private cars will only be able to use it if they successfully apply for a special permit and the bridge won't be served by public transport.

Construction of the bridge started in 2009 in mainland China and in 2011 in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong authorities have defended the bridge's HK$120 billion (£11.8 billion) price tag, saying it would consolidate Hong Kong's position as a regional aviation and logistics hub. "Most people will need to travel the bridge on coaches and buses", the Singapore-based Channel News Asia reported.

The bridge's completion comes as China under Xi is extending its grip over Hong Kong, a city of 7.4 million given a special status when it was handed over from the British back to China in 1997.

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It's worth pointing out that the HZMB is the world's longest sea crossing bridge including a connecting section linking the bridge to Hong Kong Port.

In terms of sheer size, it is a record breaker - the longest ocean bridge and tunnel system in the world.

Environmentalists also warned the bridge would have a devastating impact on a remarkable and already critically endangered species of pink dolphin in the Pearl River estuary. Hong Kong media have also reported there will be cameras monitoring drivers as they cross the bridge.

In response to environmentalists' concerns, the Hong Kong government established protected marine parks for the dolphins and other aquatic animals.

The bridge, which will open for traffic tomorrow, is not only the largest of its kind but also has some unusual rules, The National reports.

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