Switching from left to right on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

Traffic in Hong Kong and Macau drive on the left, while vehicles in mainland China drive on the right – so what side does traffic on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge travel on?

Entrance to the immersed tube tunnel on the Hong Kong end of the bridge

The answer – on the right side, just like mainland China.

Link road on Chek Lap Kok connects the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

But the road signs on the Hong Kong side of the bridge are just the rest of the city – English and traditional Chinese text, but with ‘left’ and ‘right’ switched around.

Hong Kong-style 'Keep Right Unless Overtaking' sign on the bridge, but driving on the Mainland side of the road

The transition to mainland China-style road signs with simplified Chinese text occurring at the border itself.

Swapping left and right

A swap from left to right hand driving at the Hong Kong – China border was considered incredibly disruptive.

Legislative Council paper CB(4)653/16-17(01)

As the fast and slow lanes crossed over.

The Main Bridge, located in Mainland waters, will adopt the Mainland’s right-driving arrangement which is different from the left-driving arrangement of Hong Kong.

The connection point of the Main Bridge and the Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR) is an expressway with a speed limit of 100 km per hour. If the left-driving arrangement is changed to right-driving arrangement at the connection point, this would mean that vehicles (mainly medium and heavy vehicles) using the left-most lane (i.e. commonly known as “slow lane”) on the HKLR would need to switch to the right-most lane of the Main Bridge, or vehicles using the right-most lane (i.e. commonly known as “fast lane”) of the HKLR would need to switch to the left-most lane of the Main Bridge. In other words, vehicles would need to change lanes while moving at high speed and hence posing road safety problem.

So it was decided to move the transition location to the border crossing facility in Hong Kong.

To reduce the need for changing lanes and to ensure road safety, the HKLR that connects with the Main Bridge (including the Scenic Hill Tunnel) will adopt the right-driving arrangement. There will be suitable road facilities to the north of the vehicle clearance plaza at the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) to ensure safe interface of the left-driving arrangement and the right-driving arrangement.

Located on an artificial island off Lantau Island.

Where a tangle of flyover ramps was provided to separate the conflicting movements.

Transport Department diagram

Along with signage indicating which side of the road to drive on.

Legislative changes

Changes to Hong Kong’s road rules were also required make driving on the right legal.

Pursuant to existing legislation relating to government tunnels, all buses, vehicles carrying dangerous goods, vehicles required to obtain a permit, as well as medium and heavy vehicles have to use the left-most lane of a government tunnel. We will add and amend existing provisions specifying that such vehicles in a right-driving government tunnel can only use the right-most lane.

Existing legislation related to traffic regulation contains references to “right turn”, “left side of a continuous white line with a broken line” and “left edge of a carriageway” in relation to box junction, double white line and road stud. We will add and amend existing provisions and revise the references to “left” and “right” so as to set out the requirements on box junction, double white line and road stud for right-driving roads.

Currently, vehicles on expressways are subject to restrictions on traffic directions, lanes that should be used by vehicles, lanes that can be used for overtaking, and the types of vehicles being prohibited from using the right-most lane. We will add and amend the existing provisions of the Road Traffic (Expressway) Regulations (Cap. 374Q) to revise the references to “left” and “right” so as to set out the requirements on traffic directions, lanes that should be used by vehicles, lanes that can be used for overtaking, and the types of vehicles being prohibited from using the left-most lane for right-driving expressways.

Footnote: plenty of objections

Turns out there were a number of objections from members of the Legislative Council regarding the introduction of right hand driving into Hong Kong.

Given that Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR) would be in Hong Kong waters, members queried about the rationales for adopting the right-driving arrangement on HKLR. Members expressed concern that this arrangement would cause inconvenience to Hong Kong drivers, who might also inadvertently fall foul of the law under this arrangement.

Some asking why a bridge linking two left hand drive countries should operate as right hand drive.

Mr Kwong Chun-yu pointed out that as both Hong Kong and Macao adopted the left-driving arrangement, drivers travelling between Hong Kong and Macao across the Main Bridge would need to change from the left-driving arrangement to right-driving arrangement on the Main Bridge, and then change back to the left-driving arrangement in Hong Kong/Macao.

Mr Kwong and other members including Mr Andrew Wan, Dr Cheng Chung-tai, Mr Jeremy Tam and Mr Nathan Law queried why left-driving arrangement was not adopted on the Main Bridge to bring convenience to drivers of Hong Kong and Macao. They enquired whether the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“SAR”) Government had ever explored with the Mainland authorities on the option of adopting left-driving arrangement on the Main Bridge.

Mr Jeremy Tam and Mr Nathan Law further suggested that if the left-driving arrangement was to be adopted on the Main Bridge, the switching between left-driving and right-driving arrangements could take place at the Zhuhai Boundary Crossing Facilities.

Specially given existing cross-border bridges from Hong Kong to China were left hand drive.

Miss Tanya Chan has pointed out that of the existing land-based boundary control points between Hong Kong and Guangdong, left-driving arrangement is adopted on the bridges straddling across Sha Tau Kok River and Shenzhen River at the Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To and Lok Ma Chau boundary control points. The left-driving arrangement is also adopted along the Shenzhen Bay Bridge (“SBB”).

And that part of the bridge was located on Hong Kong territory.

The Deputy Chairman Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki expressed grave concern about the adoption of the right-driving arrangement on HKLR, which in his view would undermine the principle of “One country, two systems”, given that HKLR was located in Hong Kong waters.

He was disappointed that the Administration had not revealed this proposal when it sought funding approval in respect of HZMB and related local projects from the Legislative Council (“LegCo”) in the past, and he was unconvinced by the Administration’s explanation about the technical constraints on the switching of driving arrangements at the boundary between the Mainland and Hong Kong.

Ms Claudia Mo further asked if the technical constraints on the switching of driving arrangements at the boundary were due to a design fault of HZMB or a lack of careful consideration at the design stage.

The response.

The Under Secretary for Transport and Housing explained that as it was located in the Mainland waters and was within the Mainland jurisdiction, right-driving arrangement was adopted under the territoriality principle.

With examples given of similar arrangements in other countries.

Members have also noted that the interface of left-driving and right-driving arrangements at boundary control points but not at the boundary connection point is not without precedent.

The Administration has given the examples of the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge and the Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge as illustration.

Road facilities for switching between the left-driving and right-driving arrangements are located in the vicinity of the boundary crossing facilities in Lao and Thailand respectively, and there is no switching facility at the boundary connection point on the two bridges.

But the objections didn’t go anywhere – “Road Traffic (Expressway) (Amendment) Regulation 2017 (L.N. 64)” came into operation on 15 December 2017, and the bridge opened to right hand drive traffic on 24 October 2018.

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U-turns on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge links Hong Kong to Macau and Mainland China – and u-turns are prohibited along the entire 35-minute 55-kilometre long journey across it! However in an emergency you don’t need to drive in reverse to get back home – provisions have been made for vehicles to turn around mid-journey.

Entrance to the immersed tube tunnel on the Hong Kong end of the bridge

Flyovers at San Shek Wan

I first spotted the San Shek Wan ‘grade-separated turnaround facility’ on a flight into Hong Kong.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

From water level it is a tangle of freeway ramps.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Located just off the shores of Lantau Island.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Next door to Hong Kong International Airport.

Bouygues Construction photo

Just before the bridge heads out to sea.

Arup photo

Ramps rise above the main traffic lanes.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Then pass over the top.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Allowing vehicles to change to the opposite carriageway.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Located between piers P53 and P59, the structure is described as:

A grade-separated turnaround facility near San Shek Wan comprised of slip roads in the form of single-lane viaducts bifurcates from the Hong Kong Link Road mainline carriageways forming an elevated junction above. It consists of 6-span continuous mainline deck integrated with 2 ramps. A smaller box section of 9m wide was deployed for the ramps.

The interchange is normally closed to traffic.

KMBS3V20 Studio

But the Hong Kong Government has explained why it exists.

For proper maintenance of the HZMB and speedy handling of accidents or other emergency situations, both Hong Kong and Mainland governments may deploy maintenance and emergency rescue vehicles for carrying out duties on the HZMB. The spokesman stressed that the vehicles concerned shall not be driven on a road in Hong Kong other than the Hong Kong Link Road of the HZMB. They shall return to the Mainland via the turnaround on the Hong Kong Link Road near San Shek Wan upon reaching that turnaround, except where the ambulances and fire fighting vehicles described above enter Hong Kong upon request by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for assistance in case of major serious accidents on the HZMB.

Other places to turn around

After leaving the “Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities” the Hong Kong Link Road runs at grade along the east coast of the Chek Lap Kok for 1.6 kilometres, where the first turnaround point is located – the eastern portal of the Scenic Hill Tunnel.

1 kilometre in length, a second turnaround point is located at the eastern portal of the tunnel.

Transport Department photo

New we pass over the water, travelling 4.8 kilometres to the turnaround at San Shek Wan.

Grade-separated turnaround facility spans the viaduct at San Shek Wan

Followed by another 4.8 kilometres over the water, crossing the border into China, when we reach the eastern artificial island for the immersed tube tunnel. Here, on- and off-ramps serve a future commercial development.

Massive structure built atop the Hong Kong end of the immersed tube tunnel

Down into the 6.7 kilometre long tunnel, and we emerge at the western artificial island – home to another set of access roads.

Google Maps

Then continue 22.9 kilometres across the Pearl River estuary.

Across a viaduct with three navigable spans over shipping channels.

Until we finally reach the artificial island that houses the Macau and Zhuhai Boundary Crossing Facilities.

And to summarise

So here is the full list of turnaround locations:

Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities
1.6 kmat-grade road
Scenic Hill Tunnel, eastern portal
1 kmtunnel
Scenic Hill Tunnel, western portal
4.8 kmHong Kong Link Road viaduct
San Shek Wan turnaround structure
4.8 kmHong Kong Link Road viaduct
White Dolphin Island (白海豚岛)
6.7 kmimmersed tube tunnel
Blue Dolphin Island (蓝海豚岛)
22.9 kmMain Bridge viaduct
Macau and Zhuhai Boundary Crossing Facility

Which is a rather odd situation – all five turnaround locations are located on the eastern half of the bridge, three of which are located in Hong Kong, and zero on the western side.

Further viewing

Here is a 39 minute long realtime journey across the bridge.

While this is the 6 minute long speedrun version.

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‘Paid Passageway Validators’ at MTR stations

There are many interchange stations on Hong Kong’s MTR, but the connection between the Tuen Ma and Tsuen Wan lines at Mei Foo has something no other MTR stations have – ‘Paid Passageway Validators’.

Mei Foo station

Most MTR stations have interchange passageways inside the paid area, and Mei Foo is no different.

Tsuen Wan line end of the transfer passageway at Mei Foo station

Once a MTR/KCR interchange station, the design of the station is rather complicated.

With parallel paid and unpaid walkways between the two halves of the station.

Enter the ‘Paid Passageway Validator’

I first discovered the Paid Passageway Validators on Chinese-language Wikipedia.

Due to the design of the station, exit G of Mei Foo station is not connected to the other unpaid areas. Residents living near exit G who want to go to Mei Foo Sun Chuen or Mount Sterling Mall either have to take pass through the paid area and be charged the minimum fare for the MTR, or detour around the station.

In 2017 the MTR added two “Paid Passageway Validators” in the station, allowing residents with Octopus cards to pass through the station paid area for free to and from any exit at Mei Foo station, as long as they tap their Octopus card and exit within 20 minutes. The gate will not be charged any fees.

A MTR media release dated 9 January 2017 describes their operation.

Installation of Paid Passageway Validators at Mei Foo Station to Provide Free Access Through Paid Area

To provide a more convenient way for customers, two Paid Passageway Validators will be put on a trial at Mei Foo Station starting from 18 January 2017, offering 20-minutes of free access for customers to move through the Mei Foo Station between different entrances and exits.

Mei Foo Station is an interchange station for Tsuen Wan Line and West Rail Line. The unpaid areas of both lines, however, are not fully connected. The installation of the validators in paid area of the West Rail Line concourse near Entrance G will provide a free access for local residents moving around the area. Customers can simply tap their Octopus on the validator and exit the paid area of the station within 20 minutes of their entry.

“We always strive for continuous improvements to provide the community with more convenient services. In view of the needs of local residents, we are introducing Paid Passageway Validators at Mei Foo Station as a trial so as to allow them to travel around the area by using the sheltered and air-conditioned connection through the paid area of the station, particularly between Entrance G and other entrances,” said Mr Alan Cheng, Head of Operating – South Region of MTR Corporation.

Station staff will be deployed to provide assistance to customers to get familiar with the new facilities in the initial period after the launch.

And this tweet shows their location in relation to the rest of the station.

And deployment elsewhere?

Central Station and Hong Kong Station are also connected by a long passageway inside the paid area, only usable by MTR passengers.

Part of the travelator link between Central and Hong Kong stations

A situation that the Central & Western District Council would like to see resolved by the provision of Paid Passageway Validators.

The MTR Corporation responded.

MTR Central Station and Hong Kong Station are among the busiest stations in the network, especially during the busy hours in the morning and evening

At that time, the passenger flow in and out of the two stations and the transfer line was very high, so the corporation must consider whether “Paid Passageway Validators” will affect the flow of people at the station, especially when using the station during peak hours, and arrangements for the evacuation of passengers in emergency situations to ensure the safety of passengers.

Currently, Central Station has a non-paid channel connecting Chater Gardens and World Wide Building. Citizens in need can use this non-paid channel to travel to and from these places. In addition, there are many pedestrians in the area flyovers are connected to major buildings, and citizens can also use these flyovers to conveniently travel between Central Station and Hong Kong Station

Whampoa station also has two separate sets of exits, only connected via the platform.

Leading the Kowloon City District Council to make a similar request for Paid Passageway Validators.

The Hon Starry Lee hoped that MTRCL would install Paid Passageway Validators at all lobbies not linked together at the station and included it as an established policy.

Ms Yeung Lee-wah, Public Relations Manager – External Affairs of MTR Corporation Limited reply as follows: Mei Foo Station was a major interchange station of Tsuen Wan Line and West Rail Line. The unpaid area of the two lines were not linked. In considering enhancement of station facilities, the company needed to take into account whether the facilities would affect the flow of passengers and the evacuation of passengers in emergencies in order to ensure safety of passengers. The company would need to monitor the usage situation and then conduct a review. At present, it did not have any plan to install the same facility at other station. As a matter of fact, the two exits of Whampoa Station were close to each other and passengers could use above-ground facilities to commute between various exits;

The Hon Starry Lee understood that MTRCL needed to review the effectiveness of the Paid Passageway Validators run on trial basis before making a decision on whether to install the same facilities at other stations with non-linking lobbies. She hoped that after reviewing its effectiveness, MTRCL could take the initiative to install Paid Passageway Validators at all non-linking lobbies.

Mr Ho Hin-ming opined that it was not reasonable that the decision of not to install Paid Passageway Validators at the station was made just because of passengers of Whampoa Station could use other exits on the road surface. In addition, he enquired how long it would take MTRCL to study the pedestrian flow of Whampoa Station in order to determine the installation of Paid Passageway Validators.

Mr Admond Yue said that as a public organisation, MTRCL should follow sound advice and proactively consider the installation of Paid Passageway Validators at Whampoa Station to facilitate the use of passengers.

Mr Siu Leong-sing enquired when the trial scheme of Paid Passageway Validators installed at Mei Foo Station would finish.

Ms Lilian YEUNG of MTR Corporation Limited noted Members’ opinions that in enhancing the facilities of other MTR Stations, Paid Passageway Validators shall be installed at the non-linking lobbies of other stations. She would relay Members’ opinions to departments concerned.

And the opposite situation

East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations have the opposite situation to Mei Foo – the only connection is via the unpaid area.

Moving walkways in the corridor linking East Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui stations

Which saw special ticketing rules out in place to prevent interchange passengers from being overcharged.

Touchscreen MTR single journey ticket machine

Further reading

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Hong Kong’s road-rail fire trucks

Hong Kong’s Fire Services Department has a diverse fleet of firefighting apparatus that can handle any situation, and today I’m looking at their ‘Road Rail Fire Appliances’.

This pair of fire trucks can operate on either road and rail, and were acquired in 2015 at a cost of HK$22 million to handle incidents on the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail line.

Hong Kong Fire Services Department video

They have been deployed to the Pat Heung Fire Station, a short distance from the Shek Kong emergency rescue station, which provides vehicle access into the 26 kilometre long tunnel.

MTR Corporation photo

Built by Austrian firerighting equipment supplier manufacturer Rosenbauer, they had this to say on the versatile vehicles.

It is the largest underground rail station in the world, currently being built in Hong Kong. It is the start and end point of the high-speed section to Guangzhou. Trains travel at up to 350 km/h (217 mph), often in tunnels that are miles long. These challenges demand sophisticated solutions: two speciality firefighting vehicles were developed for this area.

The range of applications of both vehicle firefighting specialities are really not short of superlatives. The 26 km section in Hong Kong’s special economic zone runs completely underground. Only when it reaches the Chinese mainland does the train line emerge on the surface again. When the trains leave the largest underground station in the world, shortly afterwards they reach speeds of up to 350 km/h. The new track also holds many new challenges for the security forces of the Hong Kong Fire Service Department. Their response to this situation was the acquisition of two railway trucks (RLF 3000/100/100 rail).

The peculiarity of the speciality vehicles is the rail travel device. Thanks to the sophisticated technology, the vehicle can be quickly converted from road to rail. Thus, it is also possible to rapidly get close to a possible accident site that would not be reachable by road. Since taking delivery of both vehicles, special training has been on the agenda for the emergency crews in Hong Kong. The focus is on railing and de-railing, and naturally driving on the rails. Even on rails, the speciality firefighting vehicles reach speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph). Not just that steering is not possible on rails, but also the braking and acceleration behaviour is completely different than on the road. The special training should be completed by the time the high-speed rail section is ready.

However, not just driving on rails is a special challenge. Since the section in the operational area of the Hong Kong Fire Service Department runs exclusively underground, the scenario of a tunnel fire plays a prominent role. The equipment of the vehicles take this situation with huge build-ups of smoke and heat into account: On both sides of the vehicle, two FANERGY E21 tunnel fans can be continuously swivelled out. This allows not just the tunnel to be ventilated and made smoke-free in a short time, but a cooling fog is also discharged.

For firefighting operations, both vehicles are of course equipped with corresponding firefighting equipment. The combined normal and high pressure pump NH 55 can also be activated during while driving. So you can start extinguishing with the RM15C bumper turret while on the move. The rapid intervention hose reels can also be used for extinguishing – with both normal and high pressure. A 3,000 l water tank and two foam compound agent tanks which each hold 100 l ensure the supply of extinguishing agents.

Both railway trucks are furnished with corresponding lighting for rail operation. Reversing and front section cameras greatly simplify driving on the rails. In addition, both vehicles are fitted with infrared thermal imaging cameras (front and rear) as well as a gas-detecting device.

The operating area of both fire fighting vehicles is very varied and brings many challenges with it. With both these speciality vehicles, the fire department is well equipped for such difficult operations.

Facts and figures

The two Road Rail Fire Appliances have slightly different fitouts – unit F7001 is fitted out as a pumper and has a 3000 litre water tank, while F7002 carries 1500 litres of water alongside additional rescue equipment.

The data sheet by manufacturer Rosenbauer has further details:

› Type: Scania P 360 CB 6×4 HSZ
› Engine: DC 13 06 EGR Euro 5
› Engine output: 265 kW / 360 hp at 1,600 RPM
› Gearbox: Allison HD 4500 with retarder
› Wheelbase: 4,900 + 1,350 mm

▪ Rail travel device
› Type: Zweiweg LOCTRAC ZW 332
› Hydrostatic drive with lifting and lowering device for 1,435 mm rail gauge
› Top speed: 60 km/h

▪ Driving compartment
› Crew: 1 + 7
› Original Scania twin cab with four seats in the direction of travel and two against the direction of travel. All seats are equipped with SCBA units (each 2 x 6 l 300 bar).
› Air-conditioner

▪ Extinguishing agent tank
› Water tank: 3,000 l
› Foam tank 1: 100 l Class A
› Foam tank 2: 100 l Class B

▪ Extinguishing system
› Type: Rosenbauer NH 55, combined normal and high pressure pump
› Normal pressure output: 5,000 l/min at 10 bar
› High pressure output: 400 l/min at 40 bar
› Pump pressure governor
› Pump operation with simultaneous driving operation

▪ Bumper turret
› Type: Rosenbauer RM15C
› Electronically controlled monitor
› Output: max. 1,500 l/min at 10 bar
› CAFS operation via monitor

▪ Other equipment
› NP and HP rapid intervention hose reels
› Electrical cable winch DC 34.9
› Reversing camera and rear drive camera
› Front and rear forward-looking infrared camera
› Gas-detecting device with 4 detectors
› LED lighting
› 4 rear parking sensors with digital indicator
› Illumination for rail operation
› Rosenbauer EPS built-in generator 60 kVA
› 4 Rosenbauer FANERGY E21 tunnel fans with water spray insert, 2 on the left and 2 on the right, stepless swivel, electric roller shutters in equipment compartments 1 and 2, control in the driver’s cab
› Display for pump control in the driver’s cab in rear with its own hinged lid

In model form

Do you have HK$1,680 burning a hole in your pocket? You can get an incredibly detailed 1/43 scale model of F7001 or F7002 by Aurora Design.

Aurora Design photo

Footnote – the LUF 60 firefighting robot

The Fire Services Department has another appliance they can deploy to tunnel fires.

Hong Kong Fire Services Department photo

The LUF 60 firefighting robot.

The LUF 60R is a diesel engine propelled, radio controlled, tracked firefighting unit mounted with a powerful 35kw ventilator. It is adjustable up to 30 degree, with 360 built-in nozzles to yield a water-fog beam that can reach 60m. It can reach the fire source (if necessary by remote control) in road/rail tunnels, basements or other enclosed building compartments, using the high volume water fog to reduce the high ambient temperature and the fire intensity to allow firefighting and rescue teams to approach safely.

Their two units have been deployed to Sheung Wan and Shek Kip Mei Fire Stations to handle railway tunnel fires on the MTR network.

Being transported to the incident site by a medium sized truck.

Further reading

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Rebranding a hotel

A few years ago I received a curious email after my visit to Hong Kong – an invitation to review the Travelodge Hotel in Kowloon, despite never having stayed there. After a moment of thought, I realised why I got the email – I had stayed there, but the hotel has just changed brands!

Concrete wall where Diocesan Girls' School faces the neighbourhood

Google Street View to the rescue!

This July 2011 view of the hotel shows it was called the ‘Chung Hing Hotel’.

In 2013 the hotel was sold to Tai Hung Fai Group, who rebranded it as ‘Rainbow Hotel’, targeting it at solo Mainland Chinese tourists.

But a few years later they changed their mind, deciding to partner with Travelodge Hotels Asia, and rebranding the hotel a second time in February 2017 – ‘Travelodge Kowloon’.

And the time of my visit to Hong Kong – September 2016.

Further reading

Ramsey Qubein over at NerdWallet has an interesting piece describing what happens when a hotel switches brands – it’s quite an exercise in logistics!

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