The Secretary of Transport and Public Works has voiced the opinion that the mega projects already built in Macau, in addition to the ones which will eventually be built in Macau and in Zhuhai, will soon become too small.
Last year, when the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB) opened, many people “wowed”, not because of the quality of the bridge, but because how big and underutilized it may be.
A similar thing happened with the Taipa Ferry Terminal. When it first opened, people were quick to criticize the facility’s size and emptiness.
Back in January, I tried the HKZMB for the first time. I thought back then that it resembled more of a white elephant project, a feeling which I also had about the Taipa ferry terminal when I used it for the first time.
However, my opinion has changed since I visited the train station in Zhuhai and one of the train stations in Chengdu. Not just changed; my opinion was turned completely upside down when I tried the Hong Kong West Kowloon Train Station.
Recently, I have frequently been using the HKZMB to travel to Hong Kong. During my travels, I started noticing more bus users than the first time I used the bridge.
Later, after I considered what I had seen in mainland China’s train stations, I realized how busy the bridge will become in the long term. I cannot predict exactly when it will happen, but I am sure that it is going to.
First of all, I personally believe that the bridge does not serve Macau residents at all. There are only 600,000 people living in Macau, and nobody would invest such a tremendous amount for such a small population. Imagine if all of Macau’s casinos existed for just these 600,000 people. It would not be sustainable, not even if the whole population gambled.
Another thing is the price, and how important it can be for the bridge’s revenue. For Macau and Hong Kong residents, paying 160 patacas for each ferry ticket to Hong Kong is peanuts, but is it the same for non-SAR residents, particularly mainlanders? The answer is obvious, despite the fact that SAR residents may still argue that mainlanders are rich.
65 patacas is a very attractive price to incentivize mainland tourists to give up the ferries and take the bus, even taking into account the inconvenience of traveling from the HKZMB port to the city centers, especially for the elderly, students, and some of the non-local residents who live and work in Guangdong.
Remember seeing tourists carrying their luggage to the bus? Then combine the 65 patacas and that image.
Since price is the first major factor deciding the eventual demand, the bridge will certainly be busy later, especially as other vehicles will gradually start hitting the lanes.
Another thing always worth considering: China has 1.4 billion people, with Guangdong alone having the largest population of any province, 111.69 million people. Most of Macau’s mainland visitors come from this province.
In the past, when Guangdong residents on the west side travelled to Macau and Hong Kong, they needed to take ferries to Hong Kong and back to their cities. Now, they can finish their Hong Kong trip and take a bus to Zhuhai and then take a train at the Zhuhai station.
Last but not least, buses pose a suitable alternative to people who get sick on boats.