The longest sea-crossing bridge ever built was set to be unveiled in China. The $US20-billion bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai is finally finished, nine years after construction began.
The 55km bridge was originally due to open in 2016, but repeated delays pushed that to this year. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend a ceremony in Zhuhai on Tuesday, along with top officials from Hong Kong and Macau, with the bridge opening to public traffic on Wednesday.
The bridge will cut journey times between the cities from three hours to 30 minutes, which will enable commuters and tourists to easily move around the region. It will also bring the Western Pearl River Delta region to within three hours’ drive from Hong Kong, the city’s transport secretary, Frank Chan, said.
Seven workers died in constructing the bridge, and another 275 were injured. Hong Kong officials have previously blamed the death toll on lack of manpower, and earlier this year a court fined several subcontractors over the issue. Environmentalists hae also raised concerns including about endangered dolphins in the area.
Built to withstand a magnitude eight earthquake, a super typhoon and strikes by super-sized cargo vessels, the bridge incorporates 400,000 tons of steel — 4.5 times the amount in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It also includes a 6.7km submerged tunnel to help it avoid the busy shipping paths over the Pearl River Delta. The tunnel runs between two artificial islands, each measuring 100,000 square meters (1 million square feet) and situated in relatively shallow waters.
However, private car owners in Hong Kong will not be able to cross the bridge without a special permit. Most drivers will have to park at the Hong Kong port, switching to shuttle bus or special hire cars once they are through immigration. Shuttle buses cost around $14 for a single trip depending on the time of day.