The 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) finally opened to the public on Wednesday, only to see the number of users was less than expected.
According to the HZMB Authority, 2,305 vehicles had used the world’s largest sea-crossing bridge as of 10 p.m., 13 hours after it opened to the public, with 965 vehicles heading to Hong Kong and 1,340 leaving Hong Kong for Zhuhai and Macau, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
That translated to about 177 vehicles using the bridge per hour on average.
In a feasibility report submitted in 2008 by a mainland consulting firm, the daily average number of vehicles using the HZMB was estimated to be between 9,200 and 14,000 in the initial period after its opening, or between 383 and 583 per hour.
That means the actual opening-day traffic was only 30 to 46 percent of the estimation.
The Transport and Housing Bureau said in supplementary documents submitted to the Legislative Council last year that traffic on the bridge could be lower than what had been predicted because the growth of cross-border tourists was slowing.
Meanwhile, data from the Immigration Department showed that the number of passengers entering the city through the Hong Kong Port of the HZMB totaled 9,994 as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, while the outbound number was 12,950.
That might explain why the HKEJ journalists found at the Hong Kong and Zhuhai border checkpoints that it only took passengers only about three minutes to complete customs and immigration clearance procedures at each checkpoint.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan, who conducted a tour of the Hong Kong Port of the HZMB on Wednesday morning, told media that the less-than-expected passenger and vehicular traffic was within expectations.
Less passenger and vehicular traffic is normally seen after the opening of any large infrastructure, Chan said, adding that the authorities concerned will step up promotion of the bridge.
The transport chief said authorities will closely monitor the situation and try to mobilize more resources to give passengers a pleasant traveling experience.
Traffic volume aside, the HZMB did spark a cross-border tourism fever in Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, with the Travel Industry Council noting that 80 tourist groups left Hong Kong for Macau and the mainland via the bridge on opening day.
The operator of Hong Kong’s Ngong Ping 360 cable cars said it saw about 1,500 tourists coming through the HZMB from various cities in Guangdong province on Wednesday, and is expecting more from Macau and Guangdong in the next two months.
In a move to promote Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, managing director Samuel Lau Wing-kee went to Zhuhai on Wednesday to accompany the first tourist group of 50 residents from that city to use the bridge to Hong Kong.
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