2018 Reporters' look back: What's special about the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge
By He Weiwei
As a reporter, I travel a lot. I spend one third of the year living in hotels, and my favorite hotel is probably the one in Zhuhai, right on the city's coast. It's indeed a room with a view: looking out from the window you'll see the beach, sea, and above it, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB).
Since 2016, Zhuhai has become the city that I travelled to most frequently. It was also a time that the super bridge saw some of its most significant construction moments such as when the main bridge was connected, undersea tunnel linked, and finally opened to traffic on October 24, 2018.
I was lucky to be there to witness all of these moments. Reporting on the bridge is never easy– I won't forget what it feels like to stand on the bridge whether on a scorching summer afternoon or during a freezing winter night, with nowhere to hide;
I know what the bridge looks like from land, air and sea.
I even spent the New Year's Eve 2018 on one of its artificial islands –without any phone signal – to report its lights being switched on for the very first time.
It was a tough experience, but nothing can compare to the effort that was made to build the bridge.
When people talk about HZMB, they'll usually say it's "the world's longest sea-based project." But what's special about it except being long and massive?
One bridge & three customs territories
HZMB was jointly built by the Chinese mainland, Kong Kong (HK) and Macao, which makes it the only bridge in the world crossing three customs territories. Just think about the fight between you, your brother and your parents over a TV remote, then imagine how difficult it is for a trilateral negotiation especially under different laws and regulations.
So the bridge's construction standards always follow the highest within the three places. For example, a bridge in mainland is supposed to have a service life of 100 years, but in HK it's 120 year, so the HZMB takes the latter as its standard.
More importantly, the bridge sets an example of a trilateral work mechanism and will push forward the three places' mutual recognition of certain qualifications like lawyers, doctors, etc.
With an increasing number of people from HK or Macao coming to mainland for work, there's urgent need for an easier process for work permits and profession recognition. This will help achieve better resource allocations and boost talent exchanges under the framework of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
'Breakfast in Zhuhai, lunch in Macao, dinner in HK'
The most direct change the bridge brings to people is a faster commute. It shortens driving time from Hong Kong to either Zhuhai or Macao from 3 hours to a mere 30 minutes.
In short, the bridge enables a citizen to have breakfast in Zhuhai, lunch in Macao, then dinner in Hong Kong, and he'll still be able to get back to Zhuhai on the same night.
Two months since operation, an average of 68,000 passengers pass the bridge per day, according to China's Ministry of Transport.
A mansion's elevator
"A bay area without a mega bridge is like a mansion without an elevator." That's what an engineer told me when talking about the necessity of the HZMB.
Looking worldwide, every bay area comes with a landmark bridge. San Francisco Bay Area is famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, with over 10 million visitors flocking in for photographs every year; In Japan, the construction of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line not only alleviated traffic around Tokyo metropolis, but also widen the area for shopping, leisure and living.
Similarly, the HZMB in China will open a new chapter for the development of the country's Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which is home to about 70 million people or 5 percent of China's population, producing over 10 percent of the country's total GDP.
Maybe it's still early to estimate how much the bridge will change people's lives, but one thing remains unchanged is that every time I step into the room of my favorite hotel in Zhuhai, I'd spend some time standing by the window, looking out and saying "Hello, Mr. Bridge."