After a wait of nine long years, Chinese leader Xi Jinping officially opened the Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge on Tuesday, October 23. The bridge is the world's longest sea bridge and will connect Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
"I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open," Jinping said and digital fireworks were seen exploding on a screen behind him. The ceremony was also attended by leaders of Hong Kong and Macau.
While Jinping reportedly did not address the audience present at the opening ceremony, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam thanked the Chinese leader for attending the event and also raved about the "magnificence" of the bridge.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge may be something that the nation may be proud of, but is often seen as China's way of tightening its grip on its territories.
The Longest Sea Bridge in the World, The Hongkong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge will open to traffic tomorrow. The bridge took 9 years to complete and cost $10.5bn. It includes 2 artificial islands acting as Borders between the 3 regions. pic.twitter.com/6lyUwAtD06— China Facts Zone (@ChinaFactsZone) October 23, 2018
So what is so special about the Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge? Let's take a look.
- The sea bridge connects three key cities and is 55 kilometres long. About 30 kilometres is over the sea of the Pearl River Delta, while a 6.7 kilometre part in between is an undersea tunnel.
- The bridge, built with 4,00,000 tonnes of steel, can withstand typhoons and earthquakes, according to the BBC.
- The bridge is set to be quite a boon to travellers. Earlier, travelling from Zhuhai to Hong Kong took over three hours, but now the travel time will be cut to 30 minutes.
- All these facilities clearly did not come cheap as the building cost is said to be about $20 billion.
- The bridge will open to traffic on Wednesday, October 24, but not everyone will be permitted to travel on it.
- Travellers who want to cross the bridge must attain a permit and all vehicles will be required to a pay a toll.
- The bridge will not open for public transport and hence there will be private shuttle facilities for travellers.
- Meanwhile, officials believe that the bridge could see over 9,000 vehicles plying on a daily basis.
- Even though the bridge is a sight right now, it has courted quite some controversies in the last nine years and has also been often referred to as the "bridge of death."
- About 18 workers have died during its construction due to safety issues and hundreds of others have been injured.
- Lawmaker Fernando Cheung had once also said that the structure is known as the "bridge of blood and tears."
- There have also been several allegations of how fake safety tests were conducted and in 2017, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested 21 employees for fudging safety reports.
- The bridge has also raised environmental concerns. Its construction is said to have depleted the number of dolphins in Hong Kong and they can no longer be found in the waters around the bridge.