The construction of a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai in mainland China’s Guangdong Province, and Macau is likely to be completed by the end of 2017, said on Thursday a representative of the Hong Kong government. But he added that no date had yet been set for commissioning it so that it can open to vehicles.
“At the moment – whether the main bridge in mainland waters or the Hong Kong-side works [construction site]; as well as the Macau- [and] Zhuhai-side works – the objective is to complete the works by the end of this year,” said Anthony Cheung Bing Leung, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Housing, according to a transcript on the Hong Kong government’s website.
Once opened, the scheme is expected to shorten road journey times between Hong Kong – and that city’s airport – and Zhuhai and Macau.
Mr Cheung was speaking to reporters after inspecting construction progress of the facilities serving the Hong Kong boundary crossing point for the infrastructure project. The entire scheme spans the Pearl River Delta, and is known as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
The official said local authorities in the three places have yet to work out an opening date for the bridge.
Mr Cheung stated: “We also need to make sure that we have all the arrangements for cross-boundary traffic to be finalised. So the actual date of commissioning will eventually be determined by the three governments with the guidance of the central task force on the bridge.”
A target date for commissioning the structure had been set for the end of 2016, but such commissioning was delayed due to a number of factors, including “shortage of labour … constraints in environmental protection requirements and slower than expected consolidation performance of reclamation works,” according to previous statements from the Hong Kong government.
The bridge consists of three cable-stayed bridges, two artificial islands and a section of underwater tunnel. The main section of the bridge had an estimated cost of RMB15.73 billion (US$2.29 billion), according to the body overseeing the construction. The costs will be split between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland authorities.
On Thursday, Mr Cheung said that the cost of construction of the main section of the bridge had already exceeded the original forecast. “The final cost for the main bridge will be higher than the original estimate due to some construction and manpower challenges,” Mr Cheung said as quoted by the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong official did not reveal the size of the additional cost, but said that the governments in the three places would have to contribute on a proportional basis in order to make up the difference.
The opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has been mentioned by a number of investment analysts covering the casino industry as an important development for Macau tourism.
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a note in January that Macau’s infrastructure “remains a limiting factor in driving increasing visitation, mass gaming revenues and non-gaming spend”.
“With the build out of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge by the end of 2017 (and opening in 2018), traffic time from Hong Kong International Airport to Macau is expected to be dramatically shortened to [about] 30 minutes,” said analysts Vitaly Umansky, Zhen Gong and Yang Xie.
“We view the infrastructure development as a key long-term catalyst for Macau to further penetrate the Chinese market, leading to greater visitation (and better overnight visitation mix),” they added.
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"After a challenging period, the Macau market is growing again, and its growth rate has been accelerating for three consecutive quarters. Our Macau operation is experiencing strong growth in both our mass gaming and non-gaming segments"
Chairman of gaming operator Las Vegas Sands and subsidiary Sands China