The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the world’s longest sea crossing, has been plagued by bureaucratic bottlenecks since its opening on October 20 last year. Due to difficulties in securing permits to drive on the bridge, traffic has been running at a trickle, largely confined to shuttle buses and expensive limo services. But this may be about to change.
Last week, Guangdong’s Public Security Bureau slipped out a notice that, henceforth, Hong Kong and Macau drivers would find it easier to go into Guangdong via the HZMB. With a short checklist of items needed to apply, a one-stop application window (albeit in Zhuhai), and improved technology (e-licenses), now drivers can go into Guangdong via the bridge within three days of applying.
Ok, so it’s not as easy as it could be. We are looking forward to the day when a car can show up at the HZMB, the driver has their face scanned, and the gate will open. This is not there, yet. But it’s a step toward that.
According to the PSB announcement, drivers can apply online through this window. As long as their paperwork is in order, it should take a maximum of three days before they can pick up a temporary license in Zhuhai. For now, this is required because drivers will need to stick up a paper license plate in their window
while driving in Guangdong. But the license is actually provided in digital format, with the expectation obviously being that they will eventually do away with the paper display. At that point, there may be no need to collect anything in Zhuhai.
The new licenses will come in either three-month or one-year multiple-entry versions, and cost the grand total of RMB 10. Yes, we can understand the outrage of business owners who previously paid tens of thousands of dollars for their cross-border licenses. If it is any consolation, these permits only allow for entry via the HZMB, not via the Shenzhen crossings.
It’s a better deal for Macau residents: they can use these licenses to go into Guangdong via Hengqin as well.
The checklist of paperwork is still not yet ideal, however. Besides an ID card and driver’s license, an applicant will need to provide the following:
1. The original (with Chinese translation) of the vehicle registration certificate;
2. The original (with Chinese translation) of the vehicle safety inspection certificate;
3. The original documents issued by the Chinese Customs and other departments to permit the entry of motor vehicles;
4. For organized tourism, competitions and other communication activities, special permission proof from the relevant Chinese authorities;
5. The original of the Chinese mandatory vehicle insurance certificate, or a copy certified by the insurance company.
Moreover, despite what the PSB says, the online-application process not yet ready. We tried. It doesn’t accept Hong Kong-formatted ID numbers with a letter in front and a number at the end in brackets. But we have no doubt someone, somewhere, is on to this already. We will update readers when it is.
It’s a long way from where it was previously, when the red tape was literally insurmountable. If you would like a chuckle, read our primer from six months ago. Road trips into Guangdong now seem like a distinct possibility for those with a bit more than average patience. Soon.