The average number of daily users of the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge rose slightly in its second month of operation, but efforts to cut traffic at the weekend in response to locals’ complaints appear to have worked.
An average of 69,000 people a day passed through the mega bridge’s Hong Kong checkpoint between November 24 and December 23 – or 2.07 million in total – a rise of 1.5 per cent from about 68,000 a day in its first month of operation.
But despite the overall increase, the number of users at the weekend has been falling, to 66,900 on Saturday, from a high of 103,000 on November 17.
After the bridge opened on October 24, people living close to the checkpoint in Tung Chung district were up in arms about their neighbourhood being overrun by visitors, and local activists responded by staging a protest last month.
But district councillor and city lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding said the situation had improved.
“Residents saw there were fewer mainland tourists coming in. Compared with the first two weeks when the situation was more serious, there is a big difference,” he said.
Much of the congestion in the district is believed to have been caused by unlicensed travel agents taking visitors to the area without cooperating with a local agency. Amid fears the grievance would sour cross-border relations, tourism authorities in Guangzhou on November 22 issued an urgent notice asking mainland travel agencies to avoid taking visitors across the bridge at weekends.
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Guangdong officials also suspended one-day weekend trips from the province to Hong Kong via the link on the weekend of November 24 and 25.
Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, executive director of Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council, said its data suggested mainland authorities’ calls for rescheduling trips had worked.
For the first three weeks in December, the council found that about 960 mainland tour groups visited Hong Kong via the bridge, a rise of 65 per cent from the equivalent period of November. But of the total, only about 400 were at the weekend, a drop of 7 per cent from the previous month.
Chan said the number of one-day tours passing through Tung Chung had fallen and that the situation was expected to remain unchanged during the Christmas and new year holidays. But the numbers may increase in the run-up to the Lunar New Year as mainlanders travelled to Hong Kong to stock up for the festival, she said.
There had also been a strong demand from Hongkongers wanting to visit the bridge at Christmas, Chan said. She said a local travel agency told her its bookings had risen by about 20 to 25 per cent from last year because of the new attraction.
“At the start it was a bit chaotic, so tourists and travel agencies adopted a wait-and-see approach,” she said. “But now the situation has stabilised, coupled with the holiday effect, it’s a peak period for the bridge.”
Meanwhile, about 110,000 vehicles used the bridge between November 24 and December 23, or a daily average of about 3,700. While still some way short of early estimates, the number represented an increase of about 18 per cent from the first month of operation.
The number of container trucks crossing the bridge also more than doubled in the period, to an average of 52 a day.
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Chan Fu-chuen, permanent vice-chairman of the Chamber of Hong Kong Logistics Industry, said some factory owners, who were used to shipping goods by water, were still unsure about using the bridge as they were not familiar with the procedures.
“Now that there have been some lab rats and they saw there was no problem they are slowly getting used to the idea,” he said.
While transporting goods from Hong Kong to Zhuhai via the bridge was about 25 per cent more expensive than by sea, it was much faster, Chan said.
Companies would have to decide for themselves which they preferred, but he expected the use of the bridge by commercial traffic to increase.
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