China on Tuesday began construction of the world’s longest sea bridge linking its southern economic hub of Guangdong province to Hong Kong and Macao.

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, attended the inauguration ceremony in Zhuhai, Guangdong, and launched the project.

“The construction of the bridge is a milestone event,” he said.

“It is a move for Hong Kong, Macao and the Pear River Delta region to cope with global economic downturn, boost investment and inspire people,” Xinhua news agency quoted Mr. Li as saying.

“It is of great significance to maintain the long—term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and enhance overall competitiveness in the region,” he said.

Mr. Li also urged construction authorities to build a landmark in the region.

The Y—shaped Hong Kong—Zhuhai—Macao bridge will have a total length of almost 50 km, of which about 35 km will be built over the sea, making it the longest sea bridge in the world, said Zhu Yongling, an official in charge of the project construction.

It will be six—lane expressway with vehicle speed limit of 100 km per hour.

“It is designed with a service life of 120 years. It can withstand the impact of a strong wind with a speed of 51 meters per second,” Mr. Zhu said.

“It can also resist the impact of 8—magnitude earthquake and a 300,000—tonne vessel,” he said.

The entire project was estimated to cost almost 73 billion yuan ($10.7 billion), he said.

The construction would take about six years.

On completion, it would take about half an hour to travel from Zhuhai or Macao on the west bank of the Pearl River to Hong Kong on the east bank, compared to three hours at present.

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