Chinese President Xi Jinping has actually officially opened the world’s longest sea crossing bridge, 9 years after building and construction very first began.
Including its gain access to roadways, the bridge covers 55km (34 miles) and connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
The bridge has actually cost about $20bn (₤ 15.3 bn) and seen numerous hold-ups.
Building and construction has actually been dogged by safety concerns – a minimum of 18 workers have passed away on the task, authorities state.
Mr Xi participated in the opening event of the bridge which happened in Zhuhai along with the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau on Tuesday.
The bridge will open to regular traffic on Wednesday.
What’s so special about this bridge?
The crossing connects 3 key seaside cities in southern China – Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai.
The bridge, developed to endure earthquakes and tropical cyclones, was built utilizing 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to construct 60 Eiffel Towers.
About 30km of its overall length crosses the sea of the Pearl River delta. To permit ships through, a 6.7 km section in the center dips into an undersea tunnel that runs in between 2 synthetic islands.
The staying areas are link roads, viaducts and land tunnels connecting Zhuhai and Hong Kong to the primary bridge.
Why has it been constructed?
It belongs to China’s strategy to create a Greater Bay Area, including Hong Kong, Macau and 9 other cities in southern China.
The area is presently home to 68 million individuals.
In the past, travelling between Zhuhai and Hong Kong would use up to 4 hours – the brand-new bridge cuts this down to thirty minutes.
Can anyone drive throughout the bridge?
No. Those who wish to cross the bridge must get special licenses, allocated by a quota system. And all vehicles will pay a toll.
The bridge is not served by public transport, so private shuttle bus buses will likewise ply the route. There is no rail link.
Authorities at first estimated that 9,200 automobiles would cross the bridge every day. They later reduced their evaluations after new transportation networks were developed in the region.
What are people saying about it?
There’s been a lot of criticism of the job.
The bridge has actually been called the “bridge of death” by some regional media. A minimum of 9 employees on the Hong Kong side have actually died and officials told BBC News Chinese that 9 had actually died on the mainland side, too.
Hundreds of workers have likewise been injured throughout the construction.
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There have actually also been concerns about the environmental effect.
Ecological groups say the job might have triggered major harm to marine life in the area, including the seriously rare Chinese white dolphin.
The number of dolphins seen in Hong Kong waters has decreased from 148 to 47 in the previous 10 years, and they are now absent from the waters near the bridge, according to the Hong Kong branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“The project has actually made irreparable damage to the sea,” said Samantha Lee, Assistant Director of Ocean Preservation at the WWF. “I am fretted that the number will never rise again.”
Is it going to comprise its expenses?
The bridge, surrounding link roads and synthetic islands cost a shocking $20bn to construct – the main bridge alone cost $6.92 bn.
Chinese authorities state it will produce approximately 10 trillion yuan ($1.44 tn; ₤ 1tn) for the economy, however one Hong Kong legislator called into question that figure.
“I am not so sure either how the bridge can sustain itself if not many automobiles are using it,” Tanya Chan informed BBC News Chinese.
“I am quite sure that we would never earn that [construction cost] back.”
According to a quote by BBC Chinese, the bridge will only earn around $86m in tolls each year.
The bridge’s maintenance costs would already take away a third of this earnings.
Critics have actually called the bridge a “huge white elephant” that ensures no economic return. Others have said its main purpose is symbolic, guaranteeing Hong Kong is physically linked to the mainland.
Extra reporting by Lam Cho Wai, BBC Chinese.