Category Archives: Infrastructure

Railways, bridges update: more speed, less haste

Will Hong Kong one day be cut out of the Greater Bay Area’s one-hour “life circle”? It might sound like an absurd suggestion, but when plans are scrutinized more carefully for a proposed new link between Shenzhen and Zhuhai, it is easy to indulge such paranoid thinking. 

This week, both city governments released updates on the so-called Deep Bay project, which runs through the Lingdingyang Channel, professing their support for it. This link would allow the eastern and western sides of the Bay to be within half an hour of each other, bypassing Hong Kong.

On the other hand, plans for a second high-speed railway line running from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, via Dongguan and Shenzhen, suggest Hong Kong will be drawn ever-more tightly into the Bay’s transport network. This one might even be running Maglev trains at 600km/h.

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Huizhou, Shenzhen combine port operations

Here is a good story about Greater Bay Area integration that is working, and delivering results. Huizhou has a deepwater port with significant potential. Shenzhen has container traffic that it needs to manage better, as its existing ports at Yantian and Shekou are running at high capacity utilization. Putting their management together makes sense, and that is what they have done. 

They are calling it the “Huiyan Combination Port” operation. It essentially involves closer collaboration between the Yantian and Huizhou container terminal, which enables streamlined customs declarations and inspection procedures for Huizhou Port, and improves handling procedures for loading and unloading international vessels in Yantian Port. 

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Macau to lease part of Hengqin Port

Macau has been formally approved by the Central Government to take control of an area in the new Hengqin Port, which is due to open on December 20. This will enable visitors to pass through both mainland and Macau Customs and Immigration inside the port’s main hall, an arrangement similar to Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Railway Station.

The National People’s Congress standing committee is due to ratify the arrangement today, after it was approved by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. The Macau government will lease the area until the end of the SAR’s term, December 20, 2049.

The new arrangement will bring a significant improvement in the arrival experience for visitors to Macau. With immigration desks situated side by side in Hengqin, visitors will be able to cross the Lotus Bridge separating the two sides without having to disembark and pass through a second checkpoint. 

It is unclear, however, whether visitors will be able to take buses directly from Hengqin to any point in Macau, or whether they must still take a shuttle bus across before changing to local transport on the Macau side of the Lotus Bridge. The Macau government has not yet clarified the details of public transport arrangements between the two sides after December 20. 

It had originally been hoped that Macau’s long-delayed Light Rail Transit system would be connected directly to the new Hengqin station. It is not yet ready for operations, however, and so visitors will still need to be bussed across.

Train plans get turbo boost

The timing could not be better for the Greater Bay Area, home to arguably the country’s most ambitious high-speed railway network masterplan: The central government has decided to accelerate local governments’ spending on infrastructure – by doubling their originally approved budgets for this year. 

Although we will need to wait for further details to trickle down, it seems likely that Guangdong will move fast on this decision. The province isn’t included specifically in the new list of projects approved for spending, but this is likely because it already has so many major railway projects under way. However, a few of the region’s more ambitious plans have been languishing recently while awaiting approval from Up North. Those that spring to mind are the CrossBay Railway, which will run from Zhuhai directly under the bay to Shenzhen, and the second Intercity Railway linking Guangzhou to Hong Kong, which will pass through Shenzhen’s Qianhai and run all the way out to Lantau.

That is besides plans for 600 km/h Maglev lines, will likely now be given more serious study.

Watch this space. We will update in due course.

Yantian Port plans ‘Ice and Snow’ project

Shenzhen’s eastern port of Yantian is undergoing a major upgrade in the coming few years that will see a new industrial district spring up around it. It will include logistics and industrial parks showcasing innovative ideas, with some combining trade and tourism.

Much like the old shipping neighborhoods in western cities that turned themselves into food and tourism attractions, such as Chelsea Market in New York, the new development plan for Yantian envisages building facilities that can be both practical for industrial use and attract visitors who will splash out for an authentic experience.

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Nansha Port building fully automated operations

Nansha’s Port has been playing fast catch-up to the region’s two bigger ports in Hong Kong and Shenzhen in recent years, and now its fourth phase of construction has been launched which aims to make it not only the GBA’s No. 1 in terms of quantity, but quality, too.

Costing RMB 7 billion, the fourth phase will be completed in 2021, at which time its TEU throughput is expected to hit 18 million. Shenzhen did 25 million at its two ports last year, and Hong Kong 19 million. More importantly, however, the fourth phase of Nansha will be the first fully automated terminal in the Greater Bay Area.

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MICE industry braces for Shenzhen World

In the days before Alibaba, the MICE business was a major driver of development in the Greater Bay Area. Right from the start of Reform and Opening, face-to-face contacts were necessary to grease the wheels of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Buyers would fly in from around the world to meet local suppliers, spending precious foreign exchange at hotels, restaurants, and karaoke lounges, before ordering vast quantities of goods from Chinese factories. The rise of e-commerce has curbed the industry’s growth, but Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions still generate sales worth billions of dollars every year for the 11 GBA cities, each of which has a Convention and Exhibition Center (or two) sitting proudly in a prominent location.

Shenzhen, the newly anointed Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, is about to open such a center that, its leaders hope, will redefine the industry. It’s called the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center. 

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Shenzhen-Jiangmen Railway gets green light

The GBA gets a major boost at the end of this month, when the north-south Intercity Railway opens between Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou, as we reported recently. But in five years’ time, the much bigger infrastructure project of the main east-west high-speed railway connection will open. This has been confirmed by provincial authorities. The Shenzhen-Jiangmen section of the Shenmao Railway has been given the official green light to begin construction by the end of the year, with completion set for late 2024.

It cannot be emphasized enough how this railway connection will change the economic structure of the GBA. Running from Shenzhen’s under-construction Xili Station, one of the city’s four major railway hubs, it will run across (and under) the mouth of the Pearl River, linking the manufacturing powerhouses of Shenzhen and Dongguan on the east with Nansha (in the middle) and Zhongshan and Jiangmen in the west.

The Shenzhen-Nansha section will chug along at a sedate 200km/h, while the Nansha-Jiangmen section will allow speeds of up to 250km/h. There will only be seven main stations along the route, which means express trains can get across the Bay more quickly at certain times of the day.

The line will essentially make Zhongshan and Jiangmen outer neighborhoods of Shenzhen. And it will boost Nansha, being right in the middle, as a central hub as it strives to build a new center of gravity for the entire Bay (more on this tomorrow in our Nansha overview).

Read more (in Chinese).

Zhuhai wants Crossbay Railway, ASAP

The western side of the Greater Bay Area still struggles with connectivity issues, and speedier progress is needed in linking it to the eastern side. So says the CPPCC of Zhuhai. 

Fortunately, there is a plan on the drawing board that could alleviate this challenge, according to Pan Ming, deputy chairman of the city’s CPPCC, quoted by the Zhuhai Daily. It is the proposed Crossbay Railway, otherwise known as the Shenzhen-Nanning High-Speed Railway (Shennan). This incredible project, which would be built entirely under the seabed across the Pearl River Delta, has its engineering challenges, but Pan believes it has been researched thoroughly and provides the best available solution.

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New railways set to open

Two major Intercity Railways are set to open at the end of this month, which will significantly improve travel times between the Greater Bay Area’s four major cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan and Foshan. Moreover, Shenzhen’s Metro Line 5 will also open, finally connecting the Qianhai special zone to the rest of the city. 

According to local media, all 15 stations of the Guangzhou-Dongguan-Shenzhen Intercity Railway are now complete, and the line will open on September 30. During the initial trial period, the railway will be testing some “skip-stop” services, which should cut travel time from Shenzhen airport to Guangzhou to under 40 minutes.

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