A railway and a bridge offering in combination a quick connection from a Chinese-mainland domestic airport at Zhuhai, to Hengqin island next door to Macau (pictured), were officially opened on Saturday. The two make possible a 15-minute trip from Zhuhai airport to Hengqin, reported several Chinese-language media outlets.
Another rail line from Zhuhai’s Gongbei border to Hengqin opened in August 2020, but has more stations, and a longer route. This new line effectively completes a full network around Hengqin connecting Zhuhai’s airport to Zhuhai’s Gongbei border post.
The fresh infrastructure, including the first phase of Jinhai Avenue Bridge – built for road traffic as well as to carry the railway – is said to be 17.1 kilometres (10.6 miles) long. The Zhuhai to Zhuhai Airport Intercity Railway is an extension of the Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway. The new five-station line goes as far as Chimelong station serving a family theme park of that name on the southern side of Hengqin.
Hengqin is also part of mainland territory, but has been earmarked by Beijing for an economic zone supposed to help speed diversification of Macau’s economy beyond casino tourism.
Hengqin has also been touted as a destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) events that might somehow be complementary to Macau’s work in that field.
In July, China’s National Immigration Administration mentioned the possibility of “convenience” regarding visa and travel permit issuance for any staff, professional audience and visitors from mainland China and abroad participating in MICE events co-hosted by Macau and Hengqin.
The original Zhuhai-Hengqin rail line has seven stations, and goes via Zhuhai railway station next to the Gongbei boundary checkpoint with Macau, ending also at the Chimelong railway station.
The Gongbei to Border Gate checkpoint is the busiest land crossing between Zhuhai and Macau. The Hengqin-Cotai checkpoint has been getting busier. In full-year 2023, Macau recorded circa 3.13 million visitor arrivals via that route, about 11.1 percent of the city’s aggregate 28.21 million visitor arrivals.
In 2019 – the immediate trading year before the Covid-19 pandemic – circa 2.96 million visitor arrivals were recorded via the Hengqin-Cotai checkpoint, about 7.5 percent of the 39.41-million visitors Macau received that year.
A line that will link Macau’s light rapid transit (LRT) system – which currently mostly serves Cotai – to Hengqin’s rail system, is still to be completed, possibly this year, according to a project update from Macau’s Public Works Services Bureau (DSOP).
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