Hong Kong: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday officially inaugurated the world’s longest Hong Kong-Zhuhai sea-crossing bridge at a ceremony in Zhuhai.
It took nine years to construct the bridge which runs 55 km and connects Zhuhai in mainland China with the semi-autonomous territories of Hong Kong and Macau built over the Pearl River Delta sea.
According to reports, it will open to regular traffic on Wednesday.
The bridge is built with 400,000 tons of steel, which is 4.5 times the amount used in the construction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and can withstand natural calamities such as earthquakes (maximum 8.0 magnitude) and typhoons.
The structure also has a 6.7 km submerged tunnel to avoid the busy shipping paths over the Pearl River Delta. The tunnel connects two islands on reclaimed land, measuring 100,000 square metres each, situated in shallow waters.
The project, which costs $20 billion, was dogged by safety and land acquisition issues. With the bridge now officially flagged off, the journey time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai will take just 30 minutes, compared to three hours currently. However, critics of the megaproject asserted that the opening of the bridge is politically motivated and is a costly white elephant.
Despite the reduction of travelling time, those coming from Hong Kong will not be able to cross the bridge without a special permit. Drivers will have to park their vehicles at Hong Kong port and switch to a shuttle bus or hire special cars after clearing certain immigration procedures.
The opening of the bridge is a part of Beijing’s aim to create a ‘Greater Bay Area’ economic hub, including Hong Kong, Macau and other prominent cities in southern China.