After several delays, blown budgets, and no small measure of controversy, the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge opened on October 24. We wade through the stacks of speculation surrounding the world’s longest sea bridge to find out just what the hype is all about, and whether it’s worth planning a road trip of your own.
The new bridge is the world’s longest sea crossing. It stretches over 55 kilometres in length. Construction began in December of 2009 and the project was completed in February this year – more than two years later than its original scheduled completion date. Designed by international architectural firm Aedas (the firm behind Hong Kong airport’s satellite terminal and the new West Kowloon Station), the mega-bridge crosses the Lingding and Jiuzhou Channels, connecting Hong Kong to both Zhuhai and Macau.
If you’re ready to make an overseas trip, there are more than a few things you’ll need to consider. First off, private car permits are capped at 10,000 for the Mainland and just 300 for Macau. If you don’t have one of these, you won’t be allowed to make the 45-minute journey.
If you are one of the lucky few, you’ll need to make sure you’re confident driving on the right (or wrong, depending on which way you’re looking at it) side of the road. The crossing operates with right-hand traffic – the opposite to both Hong Kong and Macau. This means drivers will need to use a slip road to change to right-side traffic before they join the 42km bridge section. All toll fees must be paid in RMB.
Public transport passengers can board one of 19 One Bus Hong Kong Macau coaches from Kwun Tong, or take the TIL Chinalink between Hong Kong and Zhuhai, with 400 trips operating each day. Ticket prices range from $120 to $200.
The mammoth project has not been without its fair share of controversy. Budgets were blown out of the water, with the project costing over $20 billion by its opening date. A hot topic of debate has been safety – not only of passengers, but also construction workers and the impact of the bridge on the surrounding local environment. The bridge runs through the natural habitat of the critically endangered pink dolphin, and the dredging and construction works are said to have already impacted dangerously dwindling numbers.
There were 18 reported deaths involved in the construction of the mega-bridge – 11 in Hong Kong and seven in the Mainland. Media outlets have reported that crew members weren’t equipped with all the necessary safety equipment and life vests.
In an effort to ensure the safe passage of its users going forward, the bridge has introduced a string of peculiar safety requirements, including a ‘yawn cam’ that flashes ’cause for concern’ if drivers yawn thrice within a 20-second period. It has also been reported that drivers are expected to wear heart monitors, with their vitals and blood pressure data transmitted to the bridge’s control centre.
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