Meet one of China’s most ambitious and controversial megaprojects yet, a monstrous 55-kilometre long sea bridge that connects the mainland’s southern city of Zhuhai with Hong Kong and Macau.
The massive project is said to be the world’s longest cross-sea bridge, using enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers.
The bridge is one of the many giant infrastructure projects designed to help the country to cope with a huge internal migration of 250 million people the government is expecting over the next decade – that’s more than ten times the population of Australia.
The mammoth engineering wonder, which had the controversial price tag of over 120 billion yuan (A$25 billion) features six lanes, four tunnels – one of them underwater – artificial islands, linking roads and border-crossing facilities.
After nine years of construction, the bridge was completed in February 2018 and was finally open to the public last October.
The 55km HZMB (Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge) is formed by three main sections: the Main Bridge, which is about 30km long, the Hong Kong Link Road that stretches some 12km, and the Zhuhai Link Road which covers some 13km.
Shuttle buses are available 24/7 and depart every five minutes. Commuters can buy their tickets from vending machines or ticket counters and the whole ride takes around 40 minutes.
Chinese official news agency Xinhua said the 420,000 tonnes of steel used in the bridge equal 60 times the amount used in the Eiffel Tower. Officials estimate the structure will be in use for 120 years and will cut travel time by some 60 per cent.
Critics of the gargantuan project have not only condemned its astronomical cost but also labelled it a not-so-surreptitious attempt to tighten the central government’s grip on Hong Kong and assimilate it economically, socially and culturally into China.
On top of the insane price tag, the project has also been surrounded by corruption allegations, delays – the bridge was originally planned to open to traffic in late 2016 – budget overruns and the deaths of many construction workers.
Nine fatalities occurred during construction on the mainland side, while ten more occurred on the Hong Kong side. During the project, there were reports of somewhere between 234 and 600 injuries.