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Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge: Update on the World’s Third Longest

Large scale bridges have played a key role in Hong Kong’s highways and transport system over the last few decades, and one the most recent and recognisable of these is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB). As construction now enters the final phase let’s take a closer look at this project and its current state.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB) which commenced construction in 2009 reached a historical landmark last month with the completion of the “main body” of the structure, connecting Zhuhai to Macau and Hong Kong. The 55-kilometer-long structure is the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge, and will be third longest bridge structure in the world. It is designed to meet the demand of passenger and freight land transport among Hong Kong, the Mainland (particularly the region of Pearl River West) and Macao. It will be the first new land transport link between the east and west coasts of the Pearl River, sprouting economic and sustainable development in the three places. The Main Bridge is a dual 3-lane carriageway with a bridge/tunnel structure. It runs from the artificial island off Gongbei of Zhuhai to another artificial island just west of the HKSAR boundary. It was recently estimated that over 400,000 tons of steel was used to build this structure

The whole project is estimated to cost over RMB$40 billion and has an original completion date of 2016; however the project has experienced significant delays and technical difficulties during construction and is not expected to be fully completed until at least 2017. When in operation, the bridge is expected to help reduce the journey between Macau, Zhuhai and Hong Kong from over 3hours (by land) and over 1 hour (by sea ferry) to just 30 minutes.

Another major project which is a key part of the HKZMB is the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF). This facility will serve as a transportation hub and provide clearance facilities for goods and passengers using the HZMB, and without it traffic cannot flow across the new bridge. The HKBCF will also be linked to 2 other major projects in the area (see image below); The Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR - a dual 3-lane carriageway comprising a 9.4km long viaduct section and a 1km tunnel section) and the Tuen Mun – Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL - a 9 km long dual 2-lane carriageway including 5 km long sub-sea tunnel).

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The HKBCF which is estimated to cost over HK$35 billion commenced construction in 2011 and will require a total reclamation of over 130 hectares to provide land for the development. However, this project, much like the HZMB, has experienced delays and serious technical issues during construction. It is believed parts of the island, particularly the sea-wall, have been moving. This may have been a result of attempting to speed up the settlement of the reclamation; too much weight has been applied too quickly, which effectively has turned marine mud into “toothpaste”; resulting in unpredicted movement. So reports say up to 6 – 7 metres movement in some places.

As we see the ongoing engineering issues and delays facing construction companies trying to complete these major projects (any many others around Hong Kong), it now seems unlikely any of these projects will meet their original completion date, and as these projects continue to roll on there is still a strong demand for experienced structural engineers, geotechnical specialists, construction managers, project directors, quantity surveyors, commercial managers and claims professional to help move these projects towards completion.

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Tim Cole
Senior Recruitment Consultant – Hong Kong & Asia

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