China recently opened the world’s longest bridge after nine years of construction.
When access roads are accounted for, the bridge has a length of 55km and connects three of China’s coastal cities; Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai.
President Xi Jinping opened the bridge in Zhuhai alongside other key officials of Macau and Hong Kong.
The bridge has cost about $20bn (£15.3bn) and seen several delays.
The bridge is expected to open to regular traffic on Wednesday.
Who will Use the bridge?
Users of the road must first apply for a special permit that is allocated by a quota system. Private shuttle buses will also ply the bridge.
No public transport will be allowed to use the path. All vehicles will be required to pay tolls.
More than 8,000 vehicles are expected to use the road per day. This figure was reviewed from an initial estimate of over 9,200 after additional access roads were built in the region.
Why is the Bridge significant?
For the construction, 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers was used. The bridge is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes too. About 30km of its total length crosses the sea of the Pearl River delta. To allow ships through, a 6.7km section in the middle dips into an undersea tunnel that runs between two artificial islands
Other parts of the bridge consist of link roads, viaducts and land tunnels connecting Zhuhai and Hong Kong to the main bridge. Two artificial islands were built as part of the project.
Far from being just an impressive work of architecture and engineering, the bridge also serves the critical function of cutting down travel time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong down to 30 minutes. It used to be 4 hours.
Some local media have labeled it ‘bridge of death’ because hundreds have been injured in its construction and at least 18 workers have died.
Environmental groups say the project may have caused serious harm to marine life in the area, including the critically rare Chinese white dolphin.
The number of dolphins seen in Hong Kong waters has decreased from 148 to 47 in the past 10 years, and they are now absent from the waters near the bridge, according to the Hong Kong branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
‘The project has made irreversible damage to the sea,’ said Samantha Lee, Assistant Director of Ocean Conservation at the WWF. ‘I am worried that the number will never rise again.’
Many call the project a financial waste, even though the government believes the project will recoup investments in the construction through the use.
A government official disagrees.
‘I am not so sure either how the bridge can sustain itself if not many cars are using it,’ Tanya Chan, a government official said.
‘I am pretty sure that we would never earn that [construction cost] back.’
The project is believed by some to simply be merely symbolic of a one China, seeing as it now connects Hong Kong to the mainland.