The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge may not yet have attracted motorists in the numbers hoped for, but it has become a new-found haven for anglers – illegally so, as a group of them discovered last week.
The mega bridge, which cost HK$120 billion (US$15.3 billion) to build and is the world’s longest sea crossing, has struggled to live up to its billing since it opened in 2018, attracting fewer than 200 vehicles a day in July.
However, its spectacular, peaceful setting and conveniently designed supporting structure proved irresistible to 11 anglers who were detained by maritime police on Sunday last week after being caught fishing from its piers.
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According to a report posted by the Maritime Safety Administration, the 11 came from mainland cities including Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Guangzhou and Foshan, and had arranged the fishing trip after being attracted by the location, not realising that access to the piers was restricted.
The police also detained an operator who had ferried the anglers to the piers and confiscated his profits, the report said. The anglers were reprimanded by the police and released after expressing “remorse” for breaking the law.
“Waters of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is a restricted area and no ferries are allowed to take anglers to the piers for illegal fishing,” the report said. “Violators will face severe punishment.”
The 55km (34-mile) bridge opened for traffic in October 2018, touted as a way to help ease travel between Hong Kong, its fellow special administrative region of Macau, and the mainland city of Zhuhai along with the rest of the Pearl River Delta around which the three cities are located. The Chinese government has made a broader push to promote its Greater Bay Area scheme to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong province cities.
However, the government lowered its estimates for traffic before the bridge opened and low traffic levels since then have prompted critics to suggest it could become a white elephant, after its construction was blighted by fatal accidents, corruption, delays and budget overruns.
In 2019, it was crossed by an average of about 2,000 vehicles a day, according to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority. That compared with more than 44,000 average daily crossings on the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
During the coronavirus pandemic, traffic on the bridge has been lower still, falling in July to a daily average of 175 crossings.
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