July 31 – The long awaited bridge planned to connect Zhuhai in Mainland China to Hong Kong via Macau is likely to be funded by the regional governments if a new proposal is approved by the State Council.
The giant project—a proposed series of bridges and tunnels that would connect the west side of Hong Kong with Macau and the mainland city of Zhuhai—is expected to cost USD$2-3.7 billion and feature a 29 kilometer bridge. Upon completion, the bridge would become a landmark of the region, comparable to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, the world’s longest bridge at 38.4 kilometers. A decision is expected early next week.
The amended proposal would see the governments of Guangdong province and Hong Kong each take 40 percent equity in the project, with the balance to be held by the government of Macau. This is a reversal from the original financing deal, under which the regional governments would have looked to raise private investment, making up any shortfall in ratios of 50.2 percent by Hong Kong, 35.1 percent by Guangdong and 14.7 percent by Macau. The project has already been tendered out to a private contractor, with work expected to commence at the end of 2008 should the proposed financing be agreed to by the State Council. Should work begin as planned, the bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
This new proposal comes at a time when the regional governments are trying to speed up the project. The original proposal had been put forward by Hong Kong tycoon Gordon Wu to the then Premier Zhu Rongji and had been planned for completion by this year. Delays at the government level and a disagreement on the levels of private equity rate of return stalled the project.
Transport experts welcomed the decision to resubmit financing proposals. “It is natural that such a large infrastructure project may not generate sufficient financial return for the private sector to take up a position, meaning the greater economic benefits it would bring regionally are better recognized via government funding,” said the Charted Institute of Logistics. The bridge is projected to handle upwards of 14,000 vehicles daily upon opening, increasing to 49,000 by 2035.