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Span over water will give boost to economy

By Li Bingcun in Macao | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-24 09:56
A bridge toll gate in Zhuhai. The bridge opens to traffic on Wednesday. Edmond Tang /  China Daily

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will boost development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, especially in tourism and logistics, representatives of various sectors said after the opening ceremony.

That's because the two industries would greatly benefit from a surge in the flow of people, traffic and goods, they said.

Their remarks came after the bridge was officially opened by President Xi Jinping on Tuesday morning.

The world's longest sea bridge, the structure spans 55 kilometers, with islands and tunnels to link the western and eastern banks of the Pearl River.

Ben Chan Han-pan, Hong Kong lawmaker and a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council's panel on transportation, said he expected the bridge would be a significant logistics artery in the Bay Area, playing a role in knitting Hong Kong's economic and trade development closely with mainland regions by cutting transportation time from Zhuhai to Hong Kong to just 45 minutes from the current 4 hours.

Hong Kong companies, especially those with manufacturing bases in western Guangdong province, will greatly benefit from the bridge, Chan said.

According to a survey by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in 2013, nearly 70 percent of the Hong Kong companies interviewed have factories in the Pearl River Delta. The region is also the first choice for more than one-third of the companies to open new factories in the next three years, the survey found.

Witman Hung Wai-man, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, noted that the bridge would also help consolidate Hong Kong's leading role as an air cargo hub in the Bay Area.

According to Hung, the transportation of goods between Hong Kong International Airport and the Chinese mainland will be faster and more convenient.

Data from the Hong Kong Airport Authority showed that in 2017 the Hong Kong International Airport accommodated more than 5 million metric tons of air cargo, making it the world's busiest cargo airport.

Ma Youli, chairman of the Macao Chamber of Commerce, said the more convenient link between Hong Kong and Zhuhai will also help Macao's small and medium-sized enterprises break the shackles of a limited local market and open up a broad market in the Greater Bay Area.

The bridge will also bring a boom to the area's tourism industry, particularly the multi-destination travel business, said Teddy Chung Wai-tong, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Macau Cross Border Association.

Because of the convenience of the bridge, visitors to Hong Kong - a popular destination in domestic and overseas markets - will be more willing to visit Zhuhai, Macao and other Bay Area cities, Chung said, adding that extended trips may further boost consumption and stimulate economic development.

Arran Wiltshire, head of projects for the European Tourism Association, a group of more than 1,000 tour operators and tourism suppliers, said at a tourism forum held in Macao on Tuesday that the bridge itself could draw tourists as the world's longest sea-crossing bridge. He also expects to see more tourists from Zhuhai and Macao go abroad via Hong Kong International Airport, which boasts an extensive air traffic network covering more than 200 countries and cities.

Airports in Zhuhai and Macao will relieve some of the burden of the overcrowded HK airport, which is still awaiting completion of its third runway, Chung said. The airport handled 72.9 million passengers last year, more than triple that of two decades ago.

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