Inspecting the Tsing Ma Bridge

The Tsing Ma Bridge is the only link between Hong Kong International Airport and the rest of the city – so ensuring that it is kept in tip top shape is critical.

Westbound on the Tsing Ma Bridge

The suspensions cables are responsible for carying the weight of the bridge, and every vehicle travelling across it.

Suspension cables of the Tsing Ma Bridge

So a catwalk along the top of each cable provides inspection crews easy access.

Highway Department photo

But at 2160 metres long, it would be a long walk – so they can ride a mobile gantry atop the main cable.

And with towers 206 metres high, another mobile gantry allows crews to inspect the vertical suspension cables that holds up the bridge deck.

But what about the underside of bridge? Enter this unassuming looking truck.

Highway Department photo

Workers enter the basket located at the end of the hydraulic arm.

Highway Department photo

And can then be lowered beneath the bridge.

Highway Department photo

With the arm manoeuvrable enough to pass between the closely spaced cable stays.

Highway Department photo

The first bridge inspection vehicle was a Palfinger PB 4 acquired on the opening of the bridge in 1997.

Which was replaced by a Barin AB 23/SL in 2012.

A second bridge inspection vehicle was acquired in 2017, to be parked at the other end of the bridge, following concerns that traffic congestion might delay emergency responders.


PB 4 bridge inspection unit.

  • Max horizontal outreach: + 18.0 m / – 11.5 m
  • Max working height and depth: + 28.0 m / – 28.0 m
  • Max basket load: 280 kg

Barin AB 23/SL bridge inspection unit.

  • Down reach 30 metres
  • Platform under reach: 23 metres
  • Overhead working height: 26.5 metres
  • Max basket load: 250 kg


Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

One way tolls on the road to Lantau Island

Hong Kong motorists have to pay tolls to use many roads and bridges, and the Lantau Link that connects the airport, Lantau Island and the urban areas in Hong Kong is no different. But when the road first opened back in 1997, the tolling arrangements were a little unusual.

Crossing the Ma Wan viaduct towards the Tsing Ma Bridge

A conventional toll plaza was located on the Lantau Island side of the bridge at Tsing Chau Tsai.

Eastbound at the Lantau Link toll plaza

With both ‘Autotoll‘ and cash payments being accepted.

Eastbound autotoll lanes at the Tsing Ma Bridge toll plaza

But due to the road being the only route for cars on and off Lantau Island, motorists were only charged once.

Westbound traffic was free to drive onto Lantau Island, with three lanes left open at the toll plaza.

Westbound toll plaza for the North Lantau Highway

With the return trip toll being paid by eastbound traffic when returning to the mainland.

Eastbound at the Tsing Ma Bridge toll plaza

But in 2017 this was changed, due to the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge.

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

Which provided a second route for cars to leave Lantau Island.

'Tsing Yi, Zhuhai and Macao' via the North Lantau Highway

So conventional two way tolling arrangements were put in place starting 20 August 2017, with motorists charged half the amount of the previous return toll.

黃偉 photo, via Oriental Daily News

A two minute closure of the Lantau and Ma Wan Toll Plazas was put in place at 00:00 on the night of the changeover, to allow the tolling software to be changed over to the new prices.

Physical changes at the toll plaza were also needed, to construct additional toll booths.

Transport Department diagram, via The Standard

The open westbound traffic lane were closed, and traffic diverted through the ‘mothballed’ toll booths either side.

Felix Wong photo / via SCMP

But despite the advance notice, motorists were caught unaware – with traffic stretching back as far as 15 kilometres away from the toll plaza.

Jason Poon photo / via Oriental Daily News

And the connection to Ma Wan

The island of Ma Wan is located midway between Tsing Yi and Lantau Island.

Apartment blocks of the Park Island development on Ma Wan

With road access provided via the Lantau Link, with east facing entry and exit ramps connected to the Tsing Ma Bridge.

Ramps link the island of Ma Wan to the Tsing Ma Bridge

A toll plaza is located where the ramps join the local road network on Ma Wan.

LJ8652 photo / via 香港巴士大典

And just like the road onto Lantau Island, until 2017 a single return toll was charged for vehicles accessing Ma Wan.

Legislative Council Panel on Transport diagram

But interestingly the toll was charged on arrival. Only authorised vehicles are permitted on the roads of Ma Wan, so presumably a combined toll and permit check was considered a more efficient arrangement.

And another one way toll

Sydney, Australia also has a one way toll arrangement on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

Cliche shot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Southbound traffic gets a free ride, which removed the need to provided two sets of toll booths on the constrained site in the Sydney CBD.

Closed toll booths at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Further reading

From Proposals on Technical Legislative Amendments on Traffic Arrangements for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge dated 24 February 2017

Lantau Link one way toll

At present, the Lantau Link provides the only vehicular access to Lantau (including Chek Lap Kok) and Ma Wan. For the convenience of motorists, one-way toll collection has been implemented since the opening of the Lantau Link in 1997. After the commissioning of the HZMB, vehicles after travelling to Lantau via the Lantau Link can use the HZMB to travel to areas outside Hong Kong and return to Hong Kong through other boundary control points.

Hence, the one-way toll collection of the Lantau Link (including Ma Wan) has to be changed to two-way toll collection (if a vehicle makes use of the Lantau Link for entering and leaving Lantau, the total amount of toll paid by the vehicle for using the Lantau Link will remain unchanged). All vehicles (including taxis) travelling through the Lantau Link has to pay tolls at the Lantau Link Main Toll Plaza when entering and leaving Lantau. Such two-way toll collection is also applicable to vehicles entering and leaving Ma Wan.

According to Schedule 5 to the existing Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374D), a taxi passenger has to pay an additional fare when hiring a taxi which involves the use of the Lantau Link. Since the existing formulation of the additional fare set out at Schedule 5 only applies to one-way toll collection of the Lantau Link, we need to make technical amendment to Schedule 5 to the Regulations to tie in with the implementation of two-way toll collection of the Lantau Link. The level of the additional fare to be paid by a taxi passenger for hiring a taxi which involves the use of the Lantau Link will remain unchanged.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Revisited: rail accidents in Hong Kong

My last look at railway accidents in Hong Kong was 2012, but the MTR isn’t making my job easy – they’ve managed to crash two trains so far during 2019.

March 2019 at Central

On 18 March 2019, a two-train collision occurred at Central station during testing of the new signalling system on the Tsuen Wan Line.

MTR photo

The first train T131 travelling from Admiralty Station to Central Station platform 1, collided with second train T112 which was leaving Central Station for Admiralty Station, resulting in damage to the second to fourth cars of train T112 and derailment of two bogies of the first car of train T131.

MTR photo

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department’s (EMSD) led an investigation into the incident, finding that it was caused by a programming error introduced into the the new signalling system at the design and development stage.

September 2019 at Hung Hom

On 17 September 2019 at MTR East Rail train derailed on the approach to Hung Hom station.

MTR diagram

The train split into two, with one half mounting a buffer stop and damaging a door.

The cause of the crash is still unknown, with investigations still underway.

October 2019 at Lai King

On 6 October 2019 a northbound Tsuen Wan train derailed at Lai King station.

It is believed that the train derailed on a catch point while entering the centre turnback siding.

Posted in Everyday Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Ghost’ island off the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

On my most recent visit to Hong Kong I went on a boat trip off Lantau Island, and found something bizarre on the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge – a mysterious looking white building atop an artificial island in the middle of the sea, with zero signs of life to be found. So what is it?

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

The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge is a 55 kilometres long bridge–tunnel connecting Hong Kong to China, with two artificial islands in the middle marking the transition between bridge and a 6.7-km immersed tube tunnel beneath the main shipping channel.

Looking west to the artificial islands, the immersed tube tunnel that links them, and the Qingzhou Channel Bridge

And this is the mysterious looking white building atop the eastern artificial island, at the Hong Kong side of the tunnel.

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

Building it

I first saw the artificial island back in November 2013, by which point land reclamation was complete, but the tunnel and bridge either side were still incomplete.

Tung Chung end of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

With more construction photos to be found on the Highways Department project website.

June 2017 – construction reaches fourth floor.

August 2017 – roof completed.

October 2017 – time for the roof.

November 2017 – cranes now on the way down.

And finally May 2018 – east artificial island completed.

But what is inside

Road tunnels often have large buildings atop the portal, to house electrical substations, equipment rooms and ventilation fans.

Northbound at the Sha Tin Heights tunnel

In the case of the western artificial island, a traffic control and surveillance centre has been setup.

But the east artificial island, there just seems to be a lot of CCTV cameras.

But these artists impressions suggest bigger things are at hand.

The lights are on.

And plenty of people seem to be enjoying the view.

Enter the tourists

Even before opening the new bridge is quite popular with tourists – but mainly from Mainland China.

Popularity of Zhuhai bridge trips highlights gap between Hong Kong and mainland tourists
Su Xinqi
20 January 2018

With the cross-border bridge linking Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai set to open for traffic this year, some mainland-based tour operators have stolen a march by offering packages for travellers to see the infrastructure from afar. But there was a stark contrast on either side of the border in the popularity of the tours – given a warm welcome by those in the north and the cold shoulder in Hong Kong.

Over the last two months of 2017, Hong Kong-based China Travel Service (CTS) organised just 10 groups to join a hot springs tour which included a distant sea view of the bridge. But in December alone, Guangzhou-based agency Guangzhilv had 882 visitors sign up for tours that included boat trips to view the bridge.

The same imbalance of tourist traffic was seen after the bridge opened.

It has been reported that upon the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) opening to traffic on the 24th of last month, a large number of tourists entering the territory via HZMB have flocked to Tung Chung, and the daily lives of the residents there have been greatly affected as a result. F

or example, daily commodities were snapped up and sold out, restaurants experienced an overflow of customers, and a large number of tourists waiting at Tung Chung Bus Terminus for buses heading for the Hong Kong Port caused obstruction to passageways and noise nuisances.

Despite the introduction of a number of tourist diversion measures as announced by the Government on the 9th of this month, the situation has not been significantly improved.

Turns out some visitors are only interested in seeing the bridge.

Based on the experience gained from the past few weekends, around one-fifth of visitors arriving at Hong Kong through the HZMB BCF did not leave the BCF to visit other districts in Hong Kong by taking local public transportation. This indicates that many of the visitors arriving at Hong Kong through the HZMB BCF mainly intended to visit the HZMB itself and might not be keen to enter Hong Kong.

In addition, the Government is arranging for the setting up of temporary small-scale shops or booths in the HZMB’s BCF to allow travellers to buy souvenirs therein. We are also exploring the introduction of food trucks to serve travellers near the BCF and in Sunny Bay.

Which leads us back to the eastern artificial island.

The Government is exploring with relevant Mainland authorities the opening of the HZMB’s East Artificial Island to the aforementioned group tourists, so as to allow such tourists to visit the HZMB and return to Zhuhai or Macao from the East Artificial Island without crossing the border of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In March 2019 China Daily addressed some possible issues with the plan.

Greater Bay Area has great potential as tourism hub
He Shusi
23 March 2019

Diverse and appealing tourist attractions across the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will make the region an attractive destination for international travelers, says Lo Sui-on, director of China Travel Service (Hong Kong) and Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress.

In his NPC submission this year, Lo said the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge should be fully utilized. One of the highlights is the planned tourism center at the east artificial island of the 55-kilometer HZMB – near the Hong Kong side. It should be open to the public soon, Lo said.

The 100,000-square-meter eastern island is located in mainland waters but very close to Hong Kong International Airport. According to the bridge operator, the HZMB Authority, it has buildings reserved for tourism facilities. These include a parking lot, a canteen, shops and a sightseeing platform.

However, the island is a grey area in terms of immigration and customs control. It is located in between checkpoints at the two ends. The relevant authorities are still studying its feasibility, the HZMB Authority said.

“As some travelers just want to visit the bridge, there should be a ‘green channel’ for them, allowing them to visit the east island without crossing the boundary,” Lo said.

But that didn’t stop expressions of interest being invited April 2019.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge seeks world-class tourist attraction to alleviate Chinese tourist congestion
He Huifeng
26 April 2019

Plans are underway to turn one of the artificial islands that makes up the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge into a world-class tourist attraction in an attempt to address complaints about the US$15.3 billion project.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority has invited entertainment companies to bid for the overall planning and conceptual design of a tourism development and supporting facilities on the eastern artificial island of the bridge close to Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, according to a notice posted on its official website.

The operator is stepping up its effort to address complaints over insufficient traffic that could effect the bridge’s commercial viability as well as increased tensions between visitors and Hong Kong residents due to congestion close to the Hong Kong checkpoint.

A staff member with the project’s bidding agent, who refused to give her name, said the operator is open for any concept or style for the project, and that it does not have a preconceived idea of what the island attraction should be.

“They want the bridge [tourist project] to be a world-class brand to attract global visitors,” she said.

Chinese tourists have shown great enthusiasm for the colossal structure as a symbol of China’s engineering prowess and have flocked in large numbers, although this had led to the tensions with local residents of Tung Chung on Lantau Island in Hong Kong who have complained about being inundated by mainland Chinese visitors.

The new plan, for which bidders have until April 30 to complete the application procedure and summit documentation ahead of a field trip and a bidding briefing on May 10, would mean Chinese tourists would not need to enter the city itself.

I guess that explains what the mysterious building!

Footnote: how big are the artificial islands

I found this badly translated page detailing the size of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge artificial islands:

The east artificial island is 1563 meters from the Tonggu Channel centreline and it is in oval shape, 625 meters long and 225 meters wide, covering an area of 103,000 square meters.

The west artificial island is 2018 meters from the Lingding Channel (Lingdingyang / 伶仃洋) centreline. It is also in oval shape, 625 meters long and 185 meters wide, covering an area of 98,000 square meters.

The Zhuhai-Macao Ports have built on a newly-filled artificial island, and the island is 950 meters wide from west to east, 1930 meters long from north to west, covering an area of 2,170,000 square meters.

Hong Kong Port is also on an artificial island with an area of 1300,000 square meters, close to Hong Kong International Airport.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crossing the border on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge connects Hong Kong to Mainland China – but where does the bridge cross from the waters of Hong Kong into China’s Guangdong Province, and what marks it?

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

So where is the border?

From a legal perspective people cross the border at the “Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities“, located on a 150 hectare artificial island reclaimed from the open waters off the northeast of the Hong Kong International Airport.

Which means the 12 kilometre long road between the border crossing and the geographic border itself is a “sterile” area – just like an airport terminal.

But the geographic border is hard to spot once the bridge itself – you need to look out for the ‘Guangdong Boundary’ sign just before entering the underwater tunnel.

Playing spot the difference

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is divided into two sections:

  • HZMB Main Bridge running 29.6 km through Mainland Chinese waters, with three distinctive spans crossing shipping channels, and a 6.7 km immersed tube tunnel landing at two artificial islands, and
  • Hong Kong Link Road running 12 kilometres along viaducts, tunnels, and at-grade roads between the HZMB Main Bridge at the HKSAR boundary and the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facility.

The Hong Kong SAR border is marked on this Highways Department diagram of the bridge.

Highways Department diagram

The two sections of the bridge were constructed under separate contracts – one in Hong Kong, the other in China. This meant that the eastern side of the HZMB Main Bridge immersed tube tunnel included a short section of viaduct as far as the border.

Tung Chung end of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

The Hong Kong Link Road reached this short stub on 27 January 2017 and a ceremony was held on the Hong Kong side of the border, in front of an interesting feature – a big steel fence preventing access to the Mainland China side!

Highways Department photo

This border fence remained in place while the finishing touches were applied to the bridge.

Highways Department photo, June 2018

On 19 October 2018 the Hong Kong media were taken on a tour of the bridge as far as the border fence.

Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The fence highlights the differences of road design between the two sides.

  • bridge parapets change style,
  • Chinese-style expressway destination signs to one side,
  • ‘Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge Hong Kong Link Road’ street sign,
  • ‘0.0 km W’ distance marker sign, and
  • ‘Hong Kong’ destinations painted on each lane.

Down at water level the border is also visible – the left pier is in Mainland China waters and the pier to the right is in Hong Kong.

Border of Hong Kong and Mainland China on the HZMB

The different styles of bridge parapet and pier design are visible from this angle, as well as a curious design feature – the bridge span from the Chinese side crosses over the border, where there is an expansion gap atop ‘Pier 0’ of the Hong Kong Link Road.

Due to the close proximity of the two countries, the Hong Kong Police Force keep a patrol boat in the area.

Hong Kong Police Force boat off the HMZB, patrolling the maritime border with Mainland China

Did you notice the fisherman sitting atop the pier on the Hong Kong site?

More photos

More photos by Justin Chin/Bloomberg: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Posted in Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment