A bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau will miss its 2016 deadline for completion by one year, the Hong Kong government confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong boundary crossing facilities and link road to the bridge on the Hong Kong side “cannot be completed on time by end-2016,” said that city’s Highways Department. It now forecasts the Hong Kong portion of the scheme will be “completed by end-2017”.
The Highways Department attributed the delay to construction difficulties and issues “such as the unstable supply of materials, shortage of labour … constraints in environmental protection requirement and slower than expected consolidation performance of reclamation works”.
The bridge consists of three cable-stayed bridges, two artificial islands, and a section of underwater tunnel. Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported that the estimated capital expenditure for the whole scheme is currently HKD133 billion (US$17.1 billion). The costs will be split between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland authorities.
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.
In a September report, brokerage CLSA Ltd said that for Macau bound visitors the bridge would cut “transport time to and from Hong Kong International Airport in half”. The air hub is one of the largest and best connected in Asia, handling 63.3 million passenger journeys in 2014 according to a fact sheet on its official website. CLSA estimated in its report that the bridge project would be open by 2018.
Macau casino operators have said they expect improved local infrastructure – including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and Macau’s under-construction light rail transit (LRT) system – to aid Macau’s shift from dependence on VIP gambling to a focus on mass market gambling and general tourism.
Japanese brokerage Nomura said in a note in March that it was “concerned” that reported delays for major infrastructure projects in Macau could add to the challenges faced by the new Cotai resorts opening on various dates between 2015 and 2017.
The LRT project – designed to move visitors and locals around the city more efficiently – has faced several delays. The Macau government has not so far been able to say with precision when it would be operational.
“The delay of the bridge and the intra-city light rail system … will create a significant traffic bottleneck once [most of] the new Cotai properties are operational in 2016,” Nomura said in March.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau