Macau bridge could be the biggest fail of them all

HKG–Zhuhai–Macau_Bridge_,_june_2014

Photo: James Wong (Creative Commons)

More evidence that the HK-Macau bridge is shaping to be an even bigger disaster than the other budget-busting SAR mega-projects.

Howard Winn (the former SCMP Lai See editor) reports that in the rush to get the project completed the Highways Department has been cutting corners. It’s been trying to construct the border crossing on reclaimed land that is not yet ready for construction.

“The problem is that once again Hong Kong has allowed itself to be bullied into building this too quickly”, said one experienced engineering consultant. In the past Hong Kong has left reclaimed land to settle for between 5-15 years before building on it. “The problem with the [border crossing] is that it hasn’t been left long enough and it is still settling.” Engineers are still considering what do about the problem.

Winn reveals that the artificial island underneath the planned border crossing (aka HKBCF) at one point moved 20 metres and at other times has shifted 7 metres.  While the landing point is only one part of the HK$130 billion project, it’s an essential component.  No wonder, as this blog has previously reported, authorities are not willing to put a timetable on it.

In Zhuhai in mid-August, C.Y. Leung said the delay was a result of “complex hydrological and geological” issues in the bridge-tunnel part of the project.

But the new disclosures suggest other serious issues with the project. They also chime with comments by senior officials who have expressed uncertainty to Lantau Confidential about whether the project could be finished at all.

Hong Kong’s share of the cost includes a portion of the bridge but the entire bill for the HKBCF, the new bridge-tunnel link from the airport to Tuen Mun and  the Tuen Mun bypass, is around HK$90 billion. That will certainly rise.

The scale of the project shades other contentious capital works. The most high-profile is the Kowloon high-speed rail terminus, now forecast to cost HK$85 billion, up nearly a third from the original budget,. Like the bridge, it is seen as a political boondoggle, sited in a costly downtown location for reasons of political prestige rather than in the centre of the Kowloon peninsula.

Other projects to raise public ire include the Central-Wanchai Bypass, whose budget is up by a quarter of the original estimate to HK$36 billion, and the barely-used HK$8 billion Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which was completed last year at three times the forecast cost.

Lantau residents will also cite the planned HK$21 billion ‘super-incinerator,’ located between Lantau and Cheung Chau islands, the slowest and most expensive solution for the city’s household waste.

9 comments

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