World’s Longest Bridge – The 55-km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Link to Open on October 24

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A $20-billion bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai is set to finally open on October 24, marking the completion of the longest sea-crossing bridge ever built, nine years after construction began.

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.

The 55 km bridge was originally due to open in 2016, but repeated delays pushed that to this year. It is a key element of China’s plan for a Greater Bay Area covering 56,500 square km across southern China and encompassing 11 cities, including Hong Kong and Macau. The structure includes a dual three-lane, oversea stretch (22.9 km) and an undersea tunnel (6.7 km) which reaches a depth of 44 m. The rest of the bridge runs over land.

The undersea tunnel is made of a chain of 33 submerged hollow blocks, each 38 m wide, 11.4 m high and weighing 80,000 tonnes. The bridge contains 400,000 tonnes of steel and is designed to withstand a magnitude-8 earthquake and strikes by super-sized cargo ships. It will cut travel time from Hong Kong International Airport to Zhuhai from 4 hours to 45 minutes. The trip between Kwai Chung Container Port (Hong Kong) and Zhuhai is expected to come down from about 3½ hours to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The collaboration between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in terms of trade, finance, logistics and tourism will be strengthened. Hong Kong will assume a more proactive role in the development of the Greater Bay Area. However, private cars will only be able to use it after applying for a special permit. The crossing will mostly be used by private shuttle buses and freight vehicles. The bridge is not served by public transport.

There have been concerns that the project will affect the ecology of the area. Safety concerns had also been raised after reports that the artificial islands had drifted.The project was initially conceived in 2003, and construction began on December 15, 2009. The bridge was originally slated to be opened in 2016.

The bridge project has come in for fierce criticism in Hong Kong, where there was little public demand or appetite for greater links to either Macau or Zhuhai, and fears the city will be swamped by tourists from mainland China. In 2016, Hong Kong saw 56.7 million tourist arrivals, compared to 37.6 million for the UK, a much larger country.