Special Report – Hengqin: The line of the future

In the future it may be one of the most important lines, but for now, because of limitations related to Hengqin’s two borders, ambitions are held in check.

MB November 2021 Special Report | LRT, the unloved

Despite its being – at least at this stage – a mini-line, almost as small as the one that will reach the residential complex of Seac Pai Van, the so-called Hengqin Extension could become one of the most foundational lines in Macau’s future LTR network.

Running between just two stations (at the Flor de Lótus Checkpoint and at the Hengqin Border Post) along 2.2 kilometres and linking the Taipa Line to the Macau–Hengqin border terminal, the importance of the Extension will be commensurate with the impact Hengqin will have on the economy and society of Macau – now much greater, since the announcement in September of the creation of the Guangdong–Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone.

The Hengqin Extension is also distinguished by its 900-meter tunnel crossing the Shizimen channel, with an outer and inner diameter of 7.7 meters and 7 meters, respectively. Each ring will consist of six pieces with a thickness of 0.35 meters. The Taipa-side station will be elevated, from which the line will run along the Lotus Flower Bridge until it enters the tunnel, before arriving at Hengqin. Work on the tunnel is expected to be completed in early 2022.

The Government plans to supply the line with a four-carriage train with space for 476 people operating on a circulation interval of 6.5 minutes, round trip. It will be able to transport more than 8000 people per hour, on average.

Works for the MOP3.46 billion (US$436.7 million) Hengqin Extension Line were begun in March 2021 and are scheduled to be finished by 2024. As part of the project to extend the line, the coordinator of the Infrastructure Development Office said that “a large part of the Flor do Lótus Border Post” had already been demolished and that it would be necessary to change the natural gas channels in that area.

The project was awarded to the state-backed group Nam Kwong.

Looking for a “perfect” articulation with the Mainland

During one of the public consultation sessions on the East Line, Macao Light Rapid Transit Corporation (MLM) CEO Ho Cheong Kei recognized that the articulation between the LRT and Zhuhai may not be ideal, as it will only reach the Hengqin Border Post.

According to Ho Cheong Kei, the problem lies in the two borders: the extension will end near the Hengqin Border Post, so it may be difficult to carry out a “perfect” articulation between the LRT and the Mainland.

Ho explained on the same occasion, as quoted by the Chinese channel of Radio Macau, that complete articulation between the Hengqin Line and the Mainland, in view of the question of the two borders, will require a line that brings the LRT closer to mainland road transport and the border post at Zhuhai.

Macau Businessposed a question directly related to these remarks to the president of MLM, namely on how to solve the problem, but did not receive an answer.

Nevertheless, the LRT Henqgin connection will allow a link to the Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway, as part of efforts to improve transport interconnectivity between Macau, Zhuhai and the rest of Guangdong.

According to Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo do Rosário, after arriving at the Hengqin border station a passenger will need to exit the system and complete a border customs clearance, after which they will be able to use any further metro line on the mainland side, with the same being true for travel in the opposite direction.

In October 2019 the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) decided to grant jurisdiction over Macau’s Port Zone at Hengqin Port and certain extended areas to the MSAR.

The Decision expressly states that the areas subject to the jurisdiction of the Macau SAR shall include the Macau port zone at Hengqin Port, Lotus Bridge and the bridge passage (excluding piers) connecting the University of Macau and Hengqin Port, and the space reserved for future extensions of Macau’s light rail transit which will be used to build tunnels for running metro trains, platforms and enclosed concourses connecting the platforms and areas under the MSAR’s jurisdiction, and other light rail transit facilities.

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