Category: HZM Bridge

Chek Lap Kok-Tuen Mun tunnel to open by year-end

The HK$47 billion road and tunnel link between Chek Lap Kok airport and Tuen Mun will open by year-end.

The connection is the final and most expensive piece in the HK$120 billion HK-Macau bridge project.

It connects north from the Chek Lap Kok boundary crossing to Tuen Mun via a 5km undersea tunnel. A flyover connects south to the North Lantau Highway.

The new road-tunnel connection, which has taken nine years to build and carries the clunky title of Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL), reduces the journey time for vehicles in Zhuhai or Macau to Shenzhen.

But precious few are making the trip. The number of passengers making the crossing fell 90% in February and to as few as 200 vehicles per day in July.

It has also attracted the ire of Tuen Mun residents, who complain that it does nothing to solve their chronic traffic congestion problems.

It does open up an alternative path to the airport, however.  The freeway link from Kowloon was cut for several hours when a barge struck a support on the Kap Shui Mun bridge in October 2015

In her policy address last year CE Carrie Lam floated the idea of waiving tolls on both the Lantau Link and the new tunnel to save travel costs for Tung Chung residents.

Nothing has been heard of the idea since, however.

Lam says after the tunnel is opened it will be easier for Hong Kong vehicles to drive north into Shenzhen, although details are still to be worked out.

Because of the limited capacity of Hong Kong roads, it won’t be a reciprocal arrangement, she said yesterday.

NLB posts $9m loss on Covid-19 impact

The New Lantao Bus Co (NLB) has recorded a HK$9 million annual loss as a result of plunging passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus.

NLB’s parent company, Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings, said revenue “dropped drastically in February and March,” widening the annual loss.

It said it expects a loss in the 2020-21 financial year as well.

Besides the sharp fall in passengers on Lantau bus routes, NLB was also forced to suspend its recently-opened shuttle services to the HK-Macau bridge.

Kwoon Chung does not disclose details of its NLB operations, but says the business usually runs at a loss or a narrow profit.

It said it expects NLB to operate in the red “in the coming financial year as fare increase [sic] is not likely to be approved anytime soon and the group has to rely on the subsidy offered by the government to maintain a positive cash flow position.”

Kwoon Chung said net profit for 2019-20 was HK$22 million, down 92% from the previous year, and revenue of HK$2.463 billion was 17% lower.

NLB was forced into an embarassing climbdown in March after trying to slash its Lantau services without Transport Department permission.

It apologised for several days of chaos in which buses ran at irregular intervals, but said it would still pursue cuts to services.

Fix North Lantau traffic chaos before bridge opens, says Holden Chow

After another morning of chaos on North Lantau Highway, Legco member Holden Chow has called on the government to tackle congestion before the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opens.

He says the bridge will bring heavy traffic to the 12km highway, the sole road link between the city and Chek Lap Kok Airport.

“If no appropriate measures we are afraid that that would cause a big problem on the North Lantau Highway,” said Chow, who also represents Tung Chung South in the Islands District Council.

Four separate accidents occurred on the road between 8am and 10am today, causing traffic to back up across the Tsing Ma and Kap Shui Mun bridges in the airport direction.

On Tuesday even Chief Executive Carrie Lam was caught in congestion after four accidents occurred in a short period on the freeway.

Chow told RTHK:

“We suggest that the government ought to launch different sorts of mechanisms, including installing different facilities to show electronic signals on different highways, including the Western Harbour Tunnel, for example, just to alert or remind the travellers in advance.”

The 55-km HZBM Bridge is still officially due to open in May, but almost certainly will be delayed to the second half of the year.

Another lawmaker has called for a review of all major roads on North Lantau and west Hong Kong after the partial closure of Lantau Link because of high winds last Friday.

Photo: Headline News

This week’s bridge problem: tunnel flooding threat

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is facing more questions over its safety and engineering quality – this time over the protection of its tunnel entrances against the sea.

The concrete tetrapods installed at the edge of the tunnel entrance structures appear to have become dislodged, local media have reported.

Photos circulating online suggest the blocks have shifted from their intended positions, making the 6.7km tunnel under the Pearl River mouth vulnerable to waves and erosion.

The eastern tunnel exit lies just west of the Hong Kong-mainland border, about 4km from Lantau’s north-west coast.

Unlike earlier bridge scandals, which have all been in the Hong Kong segment, this latest engineering flaw falls on the mainland side.

A former senior civil engineer, Ngai Hokyan, says the tetrapods are intended as a buffer against the impact of waves and erosion, but he suspects they have been displaced due to design errors, HK01 reports.

The paper says photos of the breakwater since 2013 show the blocks have been shifting since September 2016.

Ngai says the blocks are meant to be interlocked to diffuse the impact of waves and protect the structure. From the photos, he says some “are obviously scattered.”

He questioned why they remain unrepaired after more than a year. It is “not difficult” to repair, he said.

Another civil engineer, So Yiu-kwan says he believes the concrete defences may have shifted because the reclamation lacks a solid foundation, Apple Daily reported.

The HZMB Authority said in a statement that the tunnels and sea defences had been built in strict accordance with the design, and had been thoroughly inspected and approved, reported.

The bridge is officially slated to open in May, some 18 months after the original anticipated opening, a result of a series of setbacks and scandals.

However, that timetable is almost certainly likely to slide to July or later. A report two weeks ago suggested the shifting foundations of the reclaimed land next to the airport is holding up the opening.

HZM Bridge bus rides for $80, once it opens

The bus ride across the HZM Bridge will cost just as little as HK$80 – but the bridge may not open until the second half of the year.

Shun Tak, the main HK-Macau ferry operator, is part of a consortium that has won the exclusive rights to run the bridge shuttle service, reports.

Managing director Pansy Ho, daughter of the gambling king Stanley Ho, told a results announcement this week the consortium include Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Land Transportation (Macau), Zhuhai Yuegong Xinhai Transportation Co., and Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge Shuttle Bus Services.

According to the Post:

Between 90 and 140 buses will run daily between the border checkpoints of the three cities. They will depart every five minutes at peak hours and every 10 to 15 minutes in non-peak hours. A night service will see buses leaving every 15 to 30 minutes.

The HK$80 fare to Zhuhai is much lower than the HK$220 ferry and HK$130 coaches using other routes.

But the shuttle will be just one of many buses crossing the bridge.

Hong Kong bus operators, including Kwoon Chung, the owner of the New Lantao Bus Co., are tipping HK$170 million into cross-border services. They are planning to run luxury coaches with free Wi-Fi and smartphone charging.

Freeman Cheung Kim-ping, the secretary-general of the Hong Kong-Guangdong Boundary Crossing Bus Association, told the Post that many passengers will prefer services that go direct to the city centre.

Coaches take passengers from downtown areas such as Mong Kok directly to Zhuhai and even farther up north, while those who take the shuttle buses will need to travel on their own to the border control points.

But the services may not start for some time.

The Asia Times reports that the preferred opening date is now July 1, the anniversary of founding of the SAR – but even that may be too ambitious.

An un-named official said the Hong Kong side needed to speed up road-surfacing work as well as complete construction of boundary crossing facilities, in order to meet the July 1 deadline.

Another report last week said the opening would be delayed past the current target date of May because of “serious” problems in the foundations of the artificial island in Tung Chung Bay.

Century Link and La Mer apartment sales break local records

A three-bedroom apartment at Century Link has just sold at a price of HK$19,159 per square foot – a new record high for the Tung Chung secondary home market.

The original owner, who paid HK$8.922 million for the 642 sq foot unit in 2015, sold it for $12.3 million – a 38% gain, according to Benny Fong, assistant regional manager at Midland Realty Tung Chung,.

The apartment was in Block 3A, with about 500 sq feet of balcony and sea views, Economic Times reported.

In another transaction, a two-bedroom apartment in La Mer, the low-rise section of Caribbean Coast, sold earlier this month for HK$6.65 million.

Situated in block 15, its price of HK$11,812 per sq foot of usable area was a record for a low-rise in Tung Chung, according to another Economic Times report.

The original owner had purchased it for HK$4.365 million in November 2013, thus booking a profit of 52% or HK$2.285 million.

Centaline Tung Chung manager Ivan Chan said that the buyers, who have bought the flat for their own use, believe there is a shortage of stock on the local market and that with the opening of the HK-Macau bridge later this year they are confident Tung Chung home prices will go even higher.

‘Serious’ foundation problems delaying bridge opening: report

“Serious problems” of shifting foundations land are the main reason for the delay in the HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, according to a Sing Tao Daily report.

Officially, the bridge is to open in May, but government staff assigned to the border checkpoint still don’t know when they will start work.

The Highways Department has revealed the date has not been set. It says it is still finalising arrangements with Zhuhai and Macau and will then report to the Central Committee.

Sing Tao says prime reason is the shifting foundations of the artificial island on which the border crossing facilities are being built.

It would take the Highways Department some time to fix the leaks in the pilings at the base of the reclamation, an un-named source told the paper. “There are lots of problems and serious leaks,” the source said.

A construction industry source agreed the problem was likely to be in the foundations of the reclaimed land.

He said the main building at the border itself was a fairly straightforward design construction and unlikely to cause any delays.

The problem lay in the abnormal settlement of the foundations of the artificial island, which is causing a delay in the topside project.

The bridge, under construction since 2009, was due to open in 2016.

The Macau and Zhuhai segments have been completed, but the Hong Kong end has been hit by a series of scandals and accidents.

Macau govt takes control of bridge, but still no opening date

The Macau government yesterday formally took control of the local section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, but officials were still unable to say when it would open.

State media reported in January that the 56-kilometre bridge across the Pearl River mouth would open in May.

The Guangdong government handed control of the Port Management Zone to the Macao government in a ceremony attended by Macau chief executive Fernando Chui on Thursday.

The Macau government said in a statement the bridge was currently not open to public use and could not advise when it would be come into service.

It said it was still working on establishing coordination “between the bodies responsible for managing the Bridge and the Macao public departments responsible for managing the boundary crossing facilities.”

The bridge, under construction since 2009, will cost Hong Kong government an estimated HK$120 billion. It was originally slated to open in 2016, but was hit by a series of delays and scandals.

The project includes the main bridge, an 11-kilometre viaduct and link road on Lantau’s north coast, an artificial island for border crossing, and a sub-sea tunnel to Tuen Mun.

The final piece of the project, a freeway from Tuen Mun to the Shenzhen border, is yet to be costed.

Photo: The 5th Detachment of the Guangdong Public Security Border Defence Corps 5th Detachment (left) hand over a model of the bridge to Macau Customs officials

Xi Jinping to open Macau bridge: report

Newly-confirmed president for life Xi Jinping will officiate at the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge later this year, analysts believe.

The bridge, under construction since 2009, is due to open as early as May.

It is the linchpin of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) plan, the scheme to integrate the Guangdong and Hong Kong economies and which now has the attention of national leaders.

A number of Greater Bay-related property stocks jumped following the annual National People’s Congress meeting last week, Apple Daily reports.

Gambling stocks are also up across the board on the belief that, as part of its GBA thinking, Beijing will ease Macau gambling rules.

Then-president Hu Jintao opened the Shenzhen Bay Bridge in 2007, so tradition leans toward Xi playing the same role.

But speculation is also driven by the visit Xi made to the Guangdong delegation at the NPC last week, during which he urged them to carry out the GBA plan.

It may not sound much to outsiders, but Beijing-watchers give weight to the provincial teams that leaders visit during the NPC.

They note that Xi met with the Guangdong group four years ago, and this year’s visit was the first time he had called for a second  time on a provincial delegation since he became leader in 2012 – a sign of his focus on the GBA concept, so the theory goes.

The other factor is that, unlike Hong Kong, where reporting on the bridge has focused on the cost over-runs and scandals, mainland media has hailed it as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.”

In recent months travel companies have been selling out tours of mainland visitors to the bridge, who have paid as much as 600 yuan for an overnight tour of the Pearl River Mouth. Hong Kong residents, however, have shown absolutely no interest.

In the eyes of most of China, the new bridge is already a success, regardless of its hefty cost and unexplained economic benefit.

HZM Bridge quota over-subscribed, looks set to rise again

Vehicle permits for the new HK-Macau bridge are already over-subscribed and the low quota seems almost certain to be raised again.

The Guangdong and Hong Kong governments set the current quota of 10,000 private vehicles at the end of last year, up from the original number of 3000 agreed on just four months earlier.

The Guangdong Public Security Bureau Traffic Administration has revealed that up to February 22 it had issued had 11,121 permits.

Demand has been so high that touts are reportedly offering them for as much as 400,000 to 600,000 yuan.

Inevitably, the two governments are once again in discussions to lift the quota, Sing Tao reports.

They have also talked about cracking down on speculation, but the low quota seems guaranteed to create a black market.

For whatever reason, and in contrast to the official enthusiasm for the Greater Bay Area, the two governments have made the permits extremely difficult to obtain.

The 10,000 quota on private vehicles contrasts with the forecast 14,000 vehicles expected to cross the bridge each day, of which roughly half are expected to be private.

The three governments, and Hong Kong in particular, need bridge traffic to recoup the bridge’s astronomical cost. They will levy a 150 yuan (HK$177) toll.

Up to now, permits have been be issued only to Hong Kong businesses deemed to be ‘hi-tech,’ or have paid more than 100,000 yuan tax in Guangdong in the past three years.

Residents who have donated more than 5 million yuan to nominated Guangdong charities, or are members of the Guangdong NPC or NPPCC, are also eligible.

But Sing Tao reports that the governments are considering lowering the threshold as well as raising the quota.

Among other things they may cut the tax requirements and open up to a wider range of businesses and other organisations.