The 55-kilometer-long structure will connect Hong Kong on the east of the Pearl River Delta with Macao and Zhuhai on the west. (Photo/CHINA DAILY)
The 55-kilometer-long structure will connect Hong Kong on the east of the Pearl River Delta with Macao and Zhuhai on the west.
The opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the first road link to span the Pearl River Estuary, will provide a crucial boost to the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, according to experts.
They said the improved connectivity will release the vitality of the regional economy and merge Hong Kong and Macao, two special administrative regions, with China's overall development.
The bridge will drive the expansion of the economy in the Greater Bay Area, according to Gordon Wu Yingsheung, chairman of Hopewell Holdings, an infrastructure and property developer in Hong Kong.
In 1983, Wu spotted the great potential of the manufacturing sector in the Pearl River Delta. Realizing that Hong Kong's limited market meant its development would be reliant on neighboring Guangdong province, he initiated the idea of building the link across the estuary.
At present, the economic development of cities on the eastern side of the delta, including Shenzhen and Huizhou, is surging, while west bank cities such as Zhuhai and Jiangmen lag behind.
By connecting Hong Kong with highways in Guangdong that run all the way to the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and the southwestern province of Yunnan, the bridge will consolidate the city's role as an international trading and air transportation hub, and accelerate development in Guangdong's western areas.
"If there is no developed transportation infrastructure, the economy will never soar," Wu told China Daily in an exclusive interview.
Hu Xijie, former deputy minister of transport, echoed Wu's opinion. He said the bridge will improve communication within the Bay Area, especially between cities in Guangdong, and with Hong Kong and Macao.
Hu believed the power of the bridge will be highlighted as the SARs further integrate into the country.
"The bridge is vital to the overall development of the Bay Area politically, economically and culturally," he said.
Construction of the world's longest sea-spanning project began at the end of 2009, and the 55-kilometer-long bridge-island-tunnel complex will connect Hong Kong on the east side of the delta with Macao and Zhuhai on the west.
The bridge cost about 120 billion yuan (.8 billion). Once operational, it will cut the journey time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai by car from four hours to less than 60 minutes.
According to Lin Ming, chief engineer of the bridge's island and tunnel project, the bridge will promote the development of more urban areas within the Bay Area because China's urbanization process relies mainly on the coastal regions.
"The delta in Guangdong is the perfect location for metropolises. Sustainable development in the delta will require more roads－the more, the better," he said.
He dismissed criticism that the bridge will only benefit Hong Kong, and said it will help the long-term integration of the entire Bay Area.
"If you only see the benefits to Hong Kong, you may only be talking about a 20-year time scale. If you foresee the future in 30 to 50 years, the bridge will be for the Bay Area as a whole. The further you look at the development, the better you will understand the significance of the bridge," he said.
Su Quanke, chief engineer of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority, the operator of the bridge, said the structure will play a major role in China's development blueprint.