16 September 2019
Hong Kong has pushed back the completion of the sea bridge project linking Macau and Zhuhai by a year to end-2017. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong has pushed back the completion of the sea bridge project linking Macau and Zhuhai by a year to end-2017. Photo: Bloomberg

Fresh concerns as cross-border sea bridge set to miss deadline

Completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, whose construction began in December 2009, has officially been put back a year from the targeted schedule of end-2016.

The Highways Department has confirmed that the project will miss its deadline, with the completion now seen only by the end of 2017 as some observers had been predicting, Ming Pao Daily reported.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, the department noted that there were many technical challenges during both the design and construction stages as the project is “huge and complicated”.

It cited issues related to boundary crossing facilities and Hong Kong Link Road projects, as well as construction difficulties and challenges such as unstable supply of materials, labor shortage, environmental protection rules, aviation limits and slower-than-expected land reclamation work.

There is speculation that issues related an artificial island are also causing construction delays as the island has been found moving seven meters away from where it is supposed to be, Ming Pao noted.

Asked whether the department had tried to conceal the progress of the project, Under Secretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu denied the charges Thursday.

At a news conference, Yau pointed to comments made by Transport Secretary Anthony Cheung at the beginning of this year.

Cheung admitted in January that the end-of-2016 target would be missed in the face of a number of difficulties and challenges.

As the Highways Department prepares to submit a report to the Legislative Council’s public works subcommittee next Tuesday, Yau said there is no need at the moment to ask for more funds for the project.

To cover unexpected costs, the LegCo had added to the project HK$5.46 billion (US$704.47 million) more than what the government had earmarked in a recent budget. That took the amount to HK$35.89 billion, compared with budgeted figure of HK$30.34 billion.

Ming Pao cited a source familiar with the matter as saying that the project has been facing issues of unsettled claims of contractors, just like the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou high-speed rail project.

The amount of such claims is now close to the HK$1.6 billion, the person said, suggesting that the project might need more funding.

Referring to rising costs and unsettled claims, lawmaker Michael Tien, who heads a railways subcommittee at the LegCo, said the bridge project appears to have fallen into the same pit as the high-speed rail venture. 

Given the possibility that the additional HK$5.46 billion won’t be enough for the bridge as unsettled claims will keep increasing and result in budget overshoot, Tien asked the Highways Department to provide the public with more detailed explanations.

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