Here’s a first look at the world’s longest sea bridge

A couple takes pictures of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZM) in Zhuhai on Oct 22, 2018. Source: FRED DUFOUR / AFP.

MORE often than not, the populous nation of China will step up to be one of the earliest adopters of technology in Asia. And it is showing no signs of slowing down.

From rolling out facial recognition for 557 security channels at over 60 of its airports to working with the popular WeChat app to replace travel documents, it is safe to say that China is on top of its tech game.

Just today, China unveiled yet another audacious technological and engineering feat when it officially launched the multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

At 55 kilometers long, more than the distance from Colaba to Borivali in Mumbai, it is the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge, and it will cut travel time from Hong Kong to Zhuhai from three hours to just 30 minutes.

A key element of China’s plan for a Greater Bay Area (Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macao), the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge jumps over and dives under the Lingdingyang waters of the Pearl River Estuary.

Linking Hong Kong’s Lantau island to Zhuhai and the gambling enclave of Macau, the six-lane bridge was constructed in just nine years.

An aerial view taken on Oc 22, 2018, shows a section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZM) in Hong Kong. Source: Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was built to withstand a magnitude eight earthquake, a super typhoon, and strikes by super-sized cargo vessels. It incorporates 400,000 tons of steel – 4.5 times the amount in San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

That is enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers and enough concrete to construct 22 Chrysler Buildings, according to Xinhua.

“You can’t see the existing transport connections – in a literal way. But this bridge is very visible … you can see it from the plane when you fly into Hong Kong, and it’s breathtaking,” lawmaker Claudia Mo told CNN.

“It links Hong Kong to China almost like an umbilical cord. You see it, and you know you’re linked up to the motherland.”

A general view shows a section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZM) in Hong Kong on Oc 22, 2018. Source: Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

Of course, the most technically challenging aspect was the construction of the 6.7-kilometer-long submerged tunnel, which was built under the Pearl River Delta, one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.

But despite the focus on the magnificent bridge being such an architectural marvel, there is a catch.

For starters, private car owners in Hong Kong will not be able to cross the bridge unless if they buy a special permit. Authorities have capped the number of private cars allowed per day to 5,000.

Without a special permit, most drivers will have to park at the Hong Kong port, switching to shuttle bus or special hire cars once they are through immigration.

In this file photo taken on Oct 7, 2018, a section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB) is seen from Lantau island in Hong Kong. Source: ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP.

To add on, in keeping with the convention in Mainland China, drivers on the bridge will be required to drive on the right, the opposite side in which Hong Kong and Macau drivers drive on, at a maximum of 100 kilometers an hour.

What does this mean for travelers?

In no time, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be filled with cars, buses, trucks, and lorries as commuters and tourists move easily around the region, elevating China’s Greater Bay Area to new heights.

Hong Kong, which already sees more tourists than the whole of the UK, will see a boost to its already thriving tourism industry, particularly from Mainland China visitors. In 2016, Hong Kong welcomed 56.7 million tourist arrivals, compared to 37.6 million for the UK.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong also very recently opened a new high-speed rail link aka bullet train called “Vibrant Express” that connects Hong Kong to inland China, a project that has been eight years in the making.

The system aims to transport more than 80,000 passengers daily between Hong Kong and the neighboring manufacturing hub of Guangdong province.