World's longest sea crossing bridge opens for business in China

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Over the construction period, 19 workers died and dozens were injured, falling into the sea below after a work platform collapsed.

China on Tuesday opened the world's longest sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to the mainland, a feat of engineering carrying vast economic and political significance.

The announcement was greeted with applause from the hundreds of guests in attendance, including the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau, Carrie Lam and Fernando Chui, and Guangdong Party Secretary Li Xi.

Representatives of constructors and engineers pose for a group photo after the opening ceremony. Leading officials from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions as well as from the neighbouring Guangdong province, the industrial heart of China, attended the 9 a.m. ceremony.

Vice premier Han Zheng said the bridge would help drive China's strategic blueprint for a "Greater Bay Area" around the Pearl River Delta modeled on other global economic dynamos like San Francisco Bay and Tokyo Bay. "It also enhances the competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta", the Post quoted him as saying.

Hong Kong residents will only be granted a license to cross into Zhuhai by vehicle if they meet highly selective criteria, including holding certain mainland government positions or making major contributions to charities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

A view of the bridge from Zhuhai. "It's nearly like an umbilical cord".

The bridge's two main pylons.

An evening view of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and its entrances to a cross sea tunnel off Lantau island in Hong Kong China

The bridge is actually both a bridge and tunnel system that involves man-made islands.

Thirty-five years ago, Wu created a sketch of the bridge over the channel and made it a proposal to the then Hong Kong British authorities, but was ignored.

But then the road plunges below the sea, entering a 6.7 kilometre long tunnel - which the biggest container vessels can navigate over - before rising back above the waves and continuing onto Hong Kong.

A highway section above the Hong Kong waters. Others raised environmental concerns over the Chinese white dolphins that frequent the area, as well as other objections.

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.

A one-way bus ride to Macau may cost HK$65 (US$8.3) per person, and private auto drivers with cross-border permits to use the bridge will need to pay a toll of 150 yuan (US$21.6) for each trip, according to a tentative pricing regime gazetted by Hong Kong and Guangdong authorities.

The bridge's opening comes at a challenging time for China as it faces pressure from a trade war with the United States, volatile financial markets, mounting public debt and a slowing economy. There is no rail link.

An aerial view of the artificial island to the north of Hong Kong airport housing immigration and customs facilities at the Hong Kong end. "It is all telling Hong Kong that you are part of China, you are very much part of it, and you can't get out of it". The frequency of shuttle bus service between Hong Kong customs and Zhuhai can reach once every five minutes at busy times.

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