By Jeanne Ongiyo
The 55km long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) is open to traffic after Chinese President Xi Jinping officially launched it on 22nd October 2018, 9 years after its construction began.
A dedicated team of skilled Engineers from China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the contractors of the Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, achieved this project milestone overcoming geological and environmental obstacles that posed a number of challenges during the construction process.
The bridge is expected to provide seamless connectivity in the 3 economic hubs it connects hence improving trade and transport.
Regarded by The Guardian as one of the wonders of the world, the design of the HZMB which consists of three cable-stayed bridges, an underground sea tunnel and two artificial islands which host the border control points was conceptualized to accommodate smooth movement of both motorists and vessels across the vast South China sea along the Pearl River estuary.
The underground sea tunnel is notably one of the most interesting features of the bridge that has left tongues wagging. Most bridges which cut across large bodies of water adapt the opening and swinging bridge concept to ensure that large vessels of water can comfortably navigate to their intended destination.
While this is not a foreign concept, having the underground tunnel means that traffic on the bridge will not stop as the vessels will have the underground tunnel as an alternative passage. Built using about 400,000 tonnes of steel, the bridge is also made up of 224 concrete pillars connecting the bridge segments able to withstand typhoons and earthquakes of a magnitude of up to 120.
A select criteria of motorists using the HZMB will enjoy easy traffic owing to the 6 expressway lanes allowing movement at speeds of 100km/h and the availability of varied options online to pay the bridge toll fees.
However, drivers from Hong Kong and Macao who are accustomed to drive right-hand traffic will slightly be inconvenienced by suddenly having to switch to right-hand traffic when crossing the bridge which is the acceptable standard in mainland China.
The HZMB is however expected to encourage urban-urban migration with investors drawn from the different regions having a more reliable channel for the movement of their goods and services hence promoting industrialization.
The existing harmonized system of payment that was presented due to the unity of the three regions will also encourage a free trade area within the region which will in turn present opportunities for partnerships in businesses and the exchange of ideas during interaction for further regional development.
The successful operations along the HZMB will also have a huge impact to tourism bringing forth easy access to tourist attractions like Tung Chung new town and Lantau Island which is home to the Ngong Ping 360 and the famous Giant Buddha.
Aside from alleviating congestion in existing cross-border checkpoints, this 20-billion-dollar investment by Hong Kong, Macao and mainland China will most definitely improve access to global markets through the region in the long run by enhancing the flow of goods and services to and from the rest of the world.