China Focus: Infrastructure projects link Hong Kong closer with mainland

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-26 19:24:22|Editor: Liangyu
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BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Most people walking on an overpass to Austin Station in Hong Kong's Kowloon pay no attention to the construction site adjacent to the station. Even less people know it's virtually "the tip of an iceberg."

Under the ground, a colossal railway station with a total area of 380,000 square meters is taking shape. It will be the West Kowloon Terminus of the Hong Kong Section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

As the only high-speed rail station in Hong Kong, it will connect the metropolis to the renowned high-speed rail network of China via a 26-km tunnel.

An underground project of such a scale is not easy. Construction started in 2010, and by the end of March, 90 percent was finished.

"After the project is completed next year, Hong Kong will be connected to 16 major cities on the mainland via high-speed rail, and it will be very convenient for travelers between Hong Kong and the mainland," said Yau Shing-mu, Under Secretary for Transport and Housing of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR).

The travel time from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, capital city of the bordering Guangdong Province, will be shortened from two hours to only 48 minutes, with the service running every 15 minutes, according to the MTR Corp., the project's designer, builder and operator.

During the first year of service, a total of 110,000 trips will be made every day, MTR Corp. predicted.

The high-speed rail is just one of several vast infrastructure projects under construction in Hong Kong. Together they are expected to elevate exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland to a new level.

Only 33 km from Austin Station, before landing at Hong Kong International Airport, passengers flying out could easily spot a curving line on the sea: the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, the world's longest manmade sea crossing.

On May 2, a key structure of the bridge was successfully installed, marking one step further toward the completion of the massive infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong Province and China's two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macao.

The project, consisting of a 22.9-km bridge and 6.7-km underground tunnel that spans the width of the Pearl River Delta, is part of China's plan to develop the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

"The Greater Bay Area has a population of 66 million. It's more than that of the Tokyo Bay or San Francisco Bay Area, and larger than the population of Britain," said Yau of the Transport and Housing Bureau.

Yau noted the Greater Bay Area is both an enormous consumption market and a manufacturing hub, hence creating a large logistic demand.

Previously, people preferred travel by sea when traveling from Guangdong's Zhuhai to Hong Kong, as land travel takes about four hours. When the cross-sea bridge is done, it will cut the driving time to only 45 minutes.

Jonathan K. S. Choi, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce based in Hong Kong, said that the bridge would also further industrial connections between Hong Kong and west part of Guangdong Province.

With the help of bridges and tunnels, it will be able to establish a "one-hour circle" within the Greater Bay Area, so that people can work in one city and sleep in another.

As the global center for shipping and logistics, Hong Kong has one of the world's busiest airports. To handle more freight and passenger traffic, the city is planning to build a third runway and expand the terminal buildings in the coming years.

"By 2024 when the new runway is put into use, it will take about four hours to reach all the major cities in Asia," said Chan Mo-po, Financial Secretary of the HKSAR Government.

In the east of Hong Kong, a new land port will also be built by 2019, the seventh of such ports between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Tam Chi-yuen, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs of the HKSAR Government, said the cities in the Greater Bay Area should find their own niche and work collaboratively, not only in terms of infrastructure connectivity, but also in areas like people-to-people exchanges, information and capital flows.