The world’s longest sea crossing bridge opened to the public on Wednesday by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is the second major infrastructure project tying Hong Kong to mainland China to launch in a matter of weeks, after the opening of a high-speed rail link last month. Taking almost 9 years to build the bridge, the officials said they did not expect many vehicles to immediately take to the road. They had to start using traffic light on the first day itself.
‘The Bridge of Death’
The $ 20 billion bridge is a 55-kilometre-long bridge. It is also dubbed as the “bridge of death” for claiming the lives of 18 workers leaving almost 500 injured.In addition, environmentalist have said that the project has disrupted the habitat of Hong Kong’s already-endangered white dolphin. The bridge connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
The bridge spans across the mouth of the Pearl River and significantly cuts the travel time between the three cities. The previously four-hour drive between Zhuhai and Hong Kong will now take 45 minutes. A section of the crossing dives underwater into a 6.7 Kilometer tunnel that creates a channel above for large cargo ship containers to pass through.
Han Zheng, the Chinese official who oversees Beijing’s at-times tense relationship with Hong Kong, declared that the bridge marked the first time that Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland had jointly cooperated on a major infrastructure project.
Can anyone drive across the bridge?
When the bridge was open to the public, there were virtually no cars or lorries to be seen on the bridge but the route was plied by private shuttle buses. It is also declared that there is no public transportation running between the cities . Private tour bus companies will run shuttle buses between immigration points at the ends of the bridge and licensed cross-border tour buses that can travel to the center of Hong Kong and Zhuhai.
Private drivers who want to cross the bridge have to obtain special permits, which are allocated via a stringent quota system. All vehicles travelling on the bridge will have to pay a toll. Tolls will range from 60 yuan to 300 yuan (or about $8 to $43), according to China Daily. Only 10,000 permits are available for Hong Kong residents who want to drive to Zhuhai, which is located in the province of Guangdong. These permits are valid for five years. Only 300 Hong Kong cars can enter Macau, and 600 Macau-licensed cars can drive to Hong Kong.
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48 Special high-tech cameras will be on the look-out for drivers on the bridge who show signs of getting sleepy, among other checks – yawn three times and the authorities will be alerted, local media report. The bridge is designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons. The bridge is built using 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers. This concrete monster also boasts of four tunnels and four artificial islands. “We have included a lot of foreign experts from the UK, US, Denmark, Switzerland, Japan, and the Netherlands,” Gao Xinglin, Bridge team leader, told news organisation Al Jazeera, adding, “They are from around 14 countries.”