Cross-border bus services using the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) will be limited to short haul routes in the initial period after the new infrastructure facility is put into operation, according to transport operators, who say the government failed to give them enough advance notice about the bridge opening date.
Bus companies that planned to offer both short-haul and long-haul services via the HZMB say they are in a position to only provide the former for at least two weeks after the bridge opens on Oct. 24.
The operators were caught off-guard on long-haul services because of the hasty announcement by authorities, they suggested.
The short-haul routes include Hong Kong-Macau and Hong Kong-Zhuhai, while the longer routes include those from Hong Kong to multiple cities in Guangdong province, including Zhongshan and Jiangmen.
The main reason the bus operators cannot meet the market demand for the long-haul services in time is because buses using the HZMB will need pass through new border checkpoints, making it impossible for the operators to change the contractual terms in relation to their vehicles.
The government announced last Friday that the 55-kilometer mega bridge and its related infrastructure, a project that was estimated to have cost Hong Kong over HK$100 billion, will be put into service on Wednesday this week, a day after an opening ceremony is held in Zhuhai, an event which President Xi Jinping is expected to attend.
Bus operators, who were somewhat taken by surprise at the schedule, are now scrambling to get their act together in terms of service preparations given the short lead time.
Alan Chan Chung-yee, vice-chairman of the China Hong Kong and Macau Boundary Crossing Bus Association, told a radio program on Sunday that the bus industry had expected the government to announce the opening day a month in advance to allow operators to prepare for long-haul services.
Chung Wai-tong, director of One Bus Hong Kong Macau Ltd, whose buses will run between APM shopping mall in Kwun Tong and Macau using the HZMB, told reporters that his firm can only offer six bus frequencies on Wednesday, before taking it to 38 from Thursday onwards.
It is understood that Kwoon Chung Bus will provide the most short-haul bus frequencies, with 400 per day for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai route and 62 for the Hong Kong-Macau route, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Observers, meanwhile, are wondering whether the new cross-border bus services will have a negative impact on ferry operators’ businesses.
Currently the ticket prices for the sea route to Zhuhai and Macau range from HK$171 to HK$220, which is a little more expensive than taking the bus but more time efficient, which takes about 60 to 70 minutes.
A person who travels to Zhuhai once a week for work told HKEJ that he will continue to take the ferry to Macau, for now, even after the HZMB opens.
However, he said he may opt for bus travel in the future because as the service is more attractive than ferry in terms of both fare and frequency.
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