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Zhuaihai-Macao tunnels to fortify economic ties
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-08 22:17

Two marine tunnels are being considered to link the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in South China's Guangdong Province to the Macao Special Administrative Region.

Both sides are now conducting feasibility studies for early stages of the two projects, an official from the Zhuhai Municipal Development and Reform Commission said yesterday.

But the official did not provide further details on the two projects.

The Zhuhai and Macao governments have not reached any agreement on the projects, the official told China Daily.

And construction still has to be approved by both Guangdong provincial government and the central authorities before it can begin.

According to Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News, the planned tunnels are being designed to reach 560 metres and 445 metres.

One of them will be a pedestrian and sightseeing tunnel.

Zhang Hongwei, a local economist, believes the tunnels could help expand the already close economic relationship between Zhuhai and Macao in the future.

The tunnels will become the third entry and exit checkpoint in Zhuhai, helping ease the great pressure at the Gongbei checkpoint that connects Zhuhai with Macao, Zhang said.

Gongbei checkpoint, which is witnessing between 40 million and 50 million passengers a year, has become the second largest land checkpoint in the Chinese mainland. It follows Luohu checkpoint in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone that borders the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Luohu checkpoint handles more than 100 million passengers annually.

And Gongbei checkpoint deals with as many as 300,000 passengers a day during its peak periods.

The checkpoint is designed to be able to cope with about 200,000 passengers a day.

The number of passengers who use Gongbei checkpoint to cross the border will continue to gain momentum,Zhang told China Daily.

More and more people in the mainland will be allowed to visit Hong Kong and Macao for their own purposes in the future, Zhang added.

Jiuzhou Port is another exit and entry harbour in Zhuhai. It offers hovercraft service between Zhuhai and Hong Kong.

The Zhuhai and Macao governments have decided to invest large sums of money to build a theme park along the mouth of the Haojiang River where the two sea tunnels are being planned.

The Xiangzhou District government of Zhuhai has decided to invest 4 billion yuan (US$480 million) or 5 billion yuan (US$600 million) to build up the district's Waizai area into ''Zhuhai Bund'' in five to eight years.

Covering an area of more than 500,000 square metres, the bund, featuring shopping centres, restaurants, bars, fountains and other entertainment and leisure facilities, is expected to become a new tourist attraction.

Situated in the southern tip of South China's Guangdong Province, Zhuhai is less than 10 minutes drive from Macao and only 36 nautical miles from Hong Kong.

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