Vehicles using the mega bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai will pay between 60 yuan (US$7) and 300 yuan per trip, mainland authorities announced on Thursday, indicating they had taken on board public feedback to keep toll prices as low as possible.
A statement from the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority said that for each trip across the multibillion-dollar bridge, a car or a taxi would pay 150 yuan, a cross-border coach 200 yuan, a shuttle bus 300 yuan, an ordinary truck 60 yuan, and a cargo truck 115 yuan.
Approved by the Guangdong government, the fares were selected from the cheaper of two pricing plans put forward by the province’s economic planning authority last December, when it invited 27 people from the three cities to give their views.
Most members of the group – comprising lawmakers, political advisers, scholars and tourism representatives – preferred charging cross-border coaches 200 yuan rather than a higher fee.
On Thursday, Stanley Tandon Lal Chaing, chairman of the Lok Ma Chau China-Hong Kong Freight Association, said he reluctantly accepted the fee levels even though he felt there should be no charge to use the mega bridge, which features a 42km Y-shaped expressway.
“This showed the mainland authorities listened to our views,” he said.
This showed the mainland authorities listened to our views
Stanley Tandon Lal Chaing, freight association chairman
“We can’t have much to complain about if a cargo truck is charged 115 yuan [per ride]. But I am still of the view that the bridge should not have tolls. The three governments are rich enough to fully subsidise usage.”
Chaing said the tolls would push up operating costs for cross-border coaches, leaving operators with “no choice but to pass the extra costs on to the clients”.
At present, express buses between Hong Kong and Zhuhai charge each passenger about HK$130 per ride, while a trip from Hong Kong to Macau on the high-speed ferry costs between HK$171 and HK$391.
A total of 140 shuttle buses would operate along two lines – one between Hong Kong and Macau, and the other between Hong Kong and Zhuhai – at an interval of 10 minutes, according to arrangements disclosed previously by the bridge authority.
Frankie Yick Chi-ming, the lawmaker representing the transport sector, believed that his constituents would find the tolls acceptable.
“There can be great savings in fuel costs if they opt to use the bridge to get to the cities on the west bank of the Pearl River Delta, instead of travelling all the way up to Shenzhen and then taking the Humen Bridge [from Guangzhou to Dongguan],” Yick said.
Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who represents the tourism sector, expected travel agencies to take advantage of the bridge to promote packages to Zhuhai and Macau.
“[The bridge] is a mega project and we believe many tourists would want to see it,” Yiu said.
Apart from taking buses, car owners in Hong Kong and Macau might be allowed to drive across the bridge and enter the mainland via Zhuhai as the Guangdong public security authority said it would study the possibility of a licence-free entry policy.
Under the current policy, Hong Kong private vehicles need a special licence to cross the bridge and enter the mainland. A total of 11,000 such licences have already been snapped up by people who run businesses in Guangdong or who have donated at least 5 million yuan to charities in the province or who are local lawmakers there.
The mega project’s expressway was completed at the end of last year and is expected to open this year, but no date has been set. However, since construction began in 2009, it has been blighted by delays, fatal workplace accidents and budget overruns.
In the latest report coming from the mainland last December, the construction of the main bridge cost 9.95 billion yuan more than expected, Hong Kong’s Transport and Housing Bureau said.
Of the 9.95 billion yuan, 5.35 billion yuan would be financed by a bank loan and the bridge authority would be responsible for repaying the loan, the bureau added.
The bridge authority, a project-managing body jointly established by the three governments, said on its website the tolls would go towards servicing the loan with pricing proposals designed for a repayment period of 30 years.