Drivers from Hong Kong must pay with renminbi and follow mainland China traffic rules by keeping to the right if they cross the mega bridge linking the city to Macau and Zhuhai.
And the number of Hong Kong cars which can directly enter Macau will be capped at 300, the Transport Department announced on Tuesday, a far cry from the quota of 10,000 to get into the mainland.
While construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, beset for years by delays and cost overruns, is largely complete, an official opening date has yet to be set as the project covers three jurisdictions, each with its own currency, laws and traffic rules.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung earlier indicated the bridge will be ready this year, but stopped short of providing a specific date.
In what is regarded as a breakthrough, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority, the operator jointly formed by the three cities, sought to address some of the concerns by giving “authoritative answers” to eight questions on its social media account on Tuesday.
Regardless of origin or destination, tolls on the bridge will be paid in renminbi.
“According to the corresponding national regulations on foreign exchange, the bridge’s toll fee station will collect cash in yuan, and non-cash payment will also be settled in yuan,” the authority said.
Non-cash payment methods include bank cards, as well as electronic wallets Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Widely used on the mainland, Alipay and WeChat Pay were developed by New York-listed Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post, and Hong Kong-listed Tencent Holdings respectively.
Autotoll, Hong Kong’s sole electronic toll collection operator, will also be compatible at the bridge’s 20 toll booths.
The authority also confirmed that the entire 42km project, including the 12km section within the Hong Kong boundary, will follow the mainland’s right-hand-drive rules, saying it is to conform with the bridge’s design.
Following colonial tradition, Hong Kong and Macau traffic still drives on the left.
Transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming expected drivers to take no time to adapt.
“Truck drivers regularly drive on both sides of the road, while many occasional drivers have also driven overseas such as in Europe and the US. Switching sides should be a breeze,” he said.
Customs checkpoints will be open 24 hours a day, the authority added, while Zhuhai and Macau will implement an “innovative joint checkpoint”, but it did not elaborate.
And for the first time, Hong Kong vehicles will be able to enter Macau, with 300 places up for grabs.
Applications, accepted later this month, can be made in either a company or individual capacity.
Businesses registered both in Hong Kong and Macau can nominate a maximum of three drivers, while individual applicants must be employed in the former Portuguese enclave or operate a business there.
Successful applicants will be issued a permit valid for three years with no renewal option.
The quota is a fraction of the 10,000 set aside for drivers wishing to enter the mainland.
The tight restriction was likely prompted by Macau’s limited capacity for extra traffic, as the casino hub endures severe congestion for most of the day.
Casual users of the bridge may also reserve one of 3,000 parking spaces at the Macau border, and enter the city after leaving their vehicles there.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok said the body was now in talks with Macau and the Guangdong provincial government to organise a cyclothon on the bridge in 2019.
“Ideally we want to see the cyclothon being held at the [bridge’s] opening, but it’s not viable as it’s still not certain when the bridge will open,” Lam said. “Organising the cyclothon is complicated, with logistics and customs clearance issues to resolve.”
Additional reporting by Denise Tsang