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.

Channel Map

As we have reported previously, the 47-km cross-bay project between Shenzhen and Zhuhai will start from Qianhai, in Shenzhen’s western side, and run across to Qi’ao island, which is at the northeast Xiangzhou district of Zhuhai. What we now also know is that, like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), the eastern part of it will be a tunnel that surfaces midway across and runs the rest of the way as a bridge. 

This will be no ordinary tunnel-bridge project, however: It will carry four high-speed railway tracks (two in each direction), and eight highway lanes. 

It won’t only be a simple direct connection between the two cities. The plan also includes a western extension of the channel, running from Qi’ao island through to Zhongshan and Jiangmen. It will connect to 13 interchanges along the way, including six in Zhuhai.

Meanwhile, Shenzhen authorities are working on a plan to develop their side of the channel within the city, with Zhuhai Transportation Bureau as the lead designer, according to the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily.

This is in addition to the project Shenzhen is currently working on, the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridge Tunnel, another highway-railway project due to be completed in 2024.

The Lingdingyang Channel will be lying in the middle of the other two channels connecting both sides of Pearl River. It will be 12 miles south of the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridge Tunnel and 20 miles north of HZMB. 

On the face of it, it would appear that Shenzhen is simply fed up with having had to wait so long for the HZMB, which has proved to be utterly useless for its residents wanting to get to the western side of the Bay. But Shenzhen is not holding this grudge against Hong Kong. Instead, it is working with Guangzhou and Dongguan on a plan for their next high-speed railway that would run from Qianhai through the middle of Hong Kong and out to Lantau, which would bring the Hong Kong International Airport into the Greater Bay Area’s network.

Moreover, this new line could have maglev trains running on it at speeds of up to 600km/h. The Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission has formally issued a request for studies of the proposed project, called the “Guangzhou-Shenzhen High-speed Maglev Intercity Railway Planning Study”.

The second railway line is planned to run between the three main airports of the Greater Bay: from Guangzhou Baiyun to Shenzhen Bao’an and out to the HKIA. It would pass through key nodes on the Science and Technology Corridor such as Guangzhou Knowledge City, Dongguan’s Central District, and the Qianhai special zone in Shenzhen. 

The current high-speed line runs along a different route, passing through Guangzhou South, Dongguan’s Humen, and Shenzhen’s Futian, before terminating in Kowloon West. 

There doesn’t seem to be any rush to get these projects going, however. No date has been set for their likely implementation. All that has been said is that they form part of the region’s transport masterplan, running until 2035. But stay tuned. These plans have a way of suddenly being accelerated once the country’s financial priorities change and the state-run banks have their credit taps opened again.

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