Macau took a step closer to economic integration with the neighbouring mainland territory of Hengqin island (pictured) on Tuesday afternoon, when a boundary-crossing facility between the two places – known as Hengqin Port, part of which comes under Macau jurisdiction – officially opened its passenger-processing area.
Assuming commerce and tourism picks up after the initial Covid-19 emergency, the facility will be able to handle up to 220,000 passenger trips daily.
Also on Tuesday, a railway spur line from Zhuhai – Macau’s nearest mainland neighbour in Guangdong province – to Hengqin, was also opened to passengers.
Macau’s Chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, has pledged to have greater cooperation between Guangdong and land-constrained Macau, regarding economic development of the two places in general, and of Hengqin in particular.
The latter island had also been touted – prior to the Covid-19 emergency – as Macau’s partner for two-centre holidays packaged to consumers. A variety of tourism infrastructure – including themed attractions – has been developed on Hengqin in recent years.
Tuesday’s opening of the Hengqin Port checkpoint’s passenger facility was attended by Macau’s Chief Executive; Guangdong’s governor, Ma Xingrui; and mainland official Yang Chuan, head of Hengqin New Area Administrative Committee; as well as by other mainland and Macau officials.
Kok Fong Mei, director of Macau’s Public Security Forces Affairs Bureau, affirmed at a Tuesday press conference, the daily “passenger” capacity of the new crossing. Currently, only a small number of people is allowed to use their private vehicles for trips between Macau and Hengqin.
Hengqin Port’s facilities – including the passenger part – will be open round-the-clock. With effect from Tuesday, Hengqin Port’s functions replace the immigration checkpoint that had been operated at the Lotus Bridge on the Macau side, near the Studio City casino resort on Cotai.
Hengqin’s Mr Yang said the new crossing would become a “highly efficient” transport hub to enable “rapid connection” of the public transport systems between Zhuhai and Macau, including the public buses and several rail links – one planned and one already realised.
“Macau’s Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system will have an extension here at Hengqin Port,” and the new checkpoint would eventually connect to Zhuhai Airport directly, Mr Yang said.
The LRT spur is yet to come. Part of the Zhuhai Airport Urban Rail Transit route is already completed, though not the last leg to the air hub. A first phase of the Urban Rail Transit system opened on Tuesday, and connects Gongbei in Zhuhai, to Hengqin island, via seven urban stations. Zhuhai Airport Urban Rail Transit is itself a spur line of the Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway that links to the national high-speed network.
A trip from Gongbei, to Hengqin’s Chimelong-branded theme park and resort, takes 15 minutes on the Urban Rail Transit system, according to Chinese-language newspaper Macao Daily News.
The second phase of Zhuhai Airport Urban Rail Transit will connect Zhuhai Airport directly to Hengqin. That leg is due to be completed in 2023, according to Chinese-language media reports.
Mainland China authorities approved in March a law enabling Macau to have jurisdiction over Hengqin Port’s passenger-clearance facilities, namely a total area of 66,428 square metres (715,025 sq feet). It includes the passenger clearance terminal, the surrounding road traffic links, and a transport hub, as well as part of an access road to the Lotus Bridge that spans the water channel separating Hengqin island from Macau.
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Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes
Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office