Getting around the Pearl River Delta

1 Dec 2008 by intern11

Flying is not the only means of transport around the booming Pearl River Delta. Prudence Lui provides an update on the latest options

The Pearl River Delta (PRD), boasting a population of over 40 million, is home to the world’s workshop, which churns out essentials such as electronics, textiles, toys and plastics. In recent years, getting around this vast area – estimated at 42,000sqkm – has become much easier with an enormously improved transport infrastructure, using sea, land and air, to seamlessly link the humming hubs of Hongkong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and countless points in-between.

But, as with most works-in-progress, there are numerous kinks to be ironed out, especially since English is still not widely spoken in many places and signages are predominantly in Chinese. So, best to have that mobile phone ready to call your local contact for translation or better yet, have directions written in Chinese before setting out.

Previously, the traditional point of entry into the Delta was through Hongkong International Airport at the old Kai Tak complex, but since the Sir Norman Foster facility rose up in Lantau Island’s Chek Lap Kok in 1998, other cities clamoured for their own state-of-the-art gateways, and now, there are not one but four other airports – Macau International Airport, Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and Zhuhai Airport. Combined, they offer about 450 domestic and international routes, representing a passenger throughput of nearly 95 million a year. The increase in movements has logically spun off a range of transport alternatives, which continues to expand as the Delta booms and burgeons.  


The Model

Acknowledged trend and performance leader, Hongkong International Airport (HKIA) is the world’s fifth busiest airport according to the Airports Council International, serving 47.8 million passengers in 2007. Its fat roster of flight services links the financial hub to 155 destinations, 40 of which are in China.

THE OPTIONS: Into Hongkong, the Airport Express Line is the best choice as the ride takes only 24 minutes to Central, and less if you’re hopping off at Kowloon. (From Customs, it’s a short walk direct to the train platform sans taking any lifts to the underground.) Airport buses, taxis and hotel pickups get you downtown as well.

For the PRD, the SkyPier ferry terminal at HKIA is the jump-off point of 67 ferries bound for Shenzhen Shekou (30 minutes journey time), Macau (50 minutes), Zhongshan (70 minutes), Zhuhai Jiuzhou (50 minutes), Shenzhen Fuyong (45 minutes) and Dongguan Humen (70 minutes), while nearly 240 coaches a day leave for the border.

At the new Terminal 2, a cross-border bus station dispatches coaches between 0700 and 2300 to key destinations in the Guangdong province such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Huizhou, Foshan and Zhongshan.

THE FUTURE: HKIA is opening the new SkyPier this month, which will be linked to Terminals 1 and 2 by an Automated People Mover system. The four-storey, 16,000-square-metre facility features four berths (with the capacity to add four more), is eight times the size of the existing SkyPier and has a larger handling capacity and more advanced hardware to support the development of new ferry routes.

For more details, visit www.hongkongairport.com


The LCC Base

Of late, the 13-year-old Macau International Airport (MIA) on Taipa has become a base for regional low-cost carriers (LCCs), including the home-grown Viva Macau. In total, it hosts 15 carriers linking the emerging gaming powerhouse to 29 international destinations.

THE OPTIONS: MIA recently introduced the Express Link Service, which cuts down on processing procedures for air-to-sea and sea-to-air passengers. For example, one can check in at the Express Link counter at the Shun Tak Ferry Terminal in Hongkong and have baggage tagged to the final point. In Macau, an Express Link bus will take passengers straight to MIA to await their flight.

Commuting between Macau and Hongkong has greatly improved over the years with tycoon Stanley Ho’s once dominant Turbo Jet operations now sharing the pie with First Ferry of New World First Ferry Services and on a tiny scale, with leisure resort The Venetian Macao, which launched luxury boat services for guests last year, complete with its own dedicated pier.

Into Macau, taxis are still reasonable at MOP40-50 (US$5-6) and Hongkong dollars also accepted. For the PRD, coach services are available to Dongguan (MOP150/US$18), Guangzhou/Panyu (MOP150/US$18), Zhuhai Gongbei border point (MOP25/US$3) and Henqin Port (MOP20/US$2.50).

Want to reach Hongkong Central or Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport in style? A helicopter ride will set you back HK$2,200 (US$284) or MOP2,200 (US$284) respectively. Asc4end to the top of Macau Ferry Pier Terminal to find the whirly birds.

THE FUTURE: A five-year expansion programme is being firmed up, which will extend facilities such as the aircraft parking position, passenger terminal and runway. In the midst of construction is a new ferry terminal next to the airport, consolidating Macau’s transport infrastructure. Taking up 19,825sqm, the ferry terminal will feature 16 berths wherein each berth can hold 400 passengers and three berths can hold up to 1,200 passengers as well as a helipad.

The ambitious Hongkong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, once completed, will make car travel between MIA or Zhuhai Airport and HKIA in less than half an hour.

For more details, visit www.macau-airport.gov.mo


The Inner Circle

Despite proximity to the formidable HKIA, Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport is doing well as the base of 26 carriers mounting flights to and from 51 second- and third-tier Mainland cities.

THE OPTIONS: Passengers from Hongkong and Macau can already check in for flights at Shenzhen Bao’an at the ferry terminals in Shun Tak or Macau. Similar services are available in “city waiting halls” as in Dongguan (four places - Shi Long Town in Shi Long Passenger Terminal, Wan Jiang Town in the Huanan Mall, Humen Town in a commercial building and Houjie Town in Guomei Hotel), Weizhou (in a hotel), Zhongshan (Huahong Hotel) and Zhuhai (at Jiuzhou Port).

Hongkong travellers also have the choice to check in and obtain their boarding passes at the Kowloon Station and experience the 75-minute bus ride to the airport via the 5.5-kilometre Shenzhen Western Corridor. The vehicles depart every half hour.

Shenzhen City’s links are quite good, with an airport express coach running every 20 minutes from the Lo Wu Railway Station (CNY20/US$3) and frequent bus schedules to points such as Hongkong, Weizhou and Dongguan.

Ferries run between Fuyong Port in Bao’an and Macau (CNY181/US$26), Fuyong and HKIA (CNY295/US$43) and the just launched China Hongkong City at Tsim Sha Tsui (CNY208/US$30).

THE FUTURE: An ongoing expansion involves a new 3,600-metre long runway, a new parallel runway, new terminal building and a slew of supporting facilities to take place on an area of 13.23sqkm. With the second runway and new terminal area targeted to be completed in 2011, passenger capacity is expected to reach 36 million passengers and eventually 40 million passengers per year by 2015 when the flight zone expansion completed.

Current facilities include 24 air bridges, golf course and an adequate selection of shops and restaurants in both Terminals A and B.

For more details, visit www.szairport.com


The Synergist

The new Guangzhou Baiyun Internationoal Airport (GBIA), which replaced the old facility in 2004, has grown to become one of the top three airports in China. It boasts a strong domestic network consisting of about 120 cities and 50 international routes. Last year, 31 million passengers used the facility.

THE OPTIONS: Situated inland, GBIA fully realises that efficient land transportation is the key to success and efforts have been kept high to improve ground services and city check in, with enhancements such as self check-in kiosks for China Southern Airlines.

With its routing making use of major highways and expressways in the Delta, the Luxury Airport Express bus service is a boon for travellers who need to reach workplaces such as Tianhe, Huangpu, Panyu, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Shunde and Jiangmen.

Synergy between GBIA and Shenzhen has been strengthened. Passengers can check into the “city waiting hall” at Ba Qua Ling of Futian and from there, take a special bus to GBIA. Departures are hourly and cost CNY88 (US$13) one way for the two-hour 20-minute trip. Similar check-in procedures are available at Zhuhai, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shunde, Jiangmen, Foshan and Tianhe (Guangzhou’s emerging CBD precinct). More points will be added in the months ahead.

THE FUTURE: Following the city government’s growth plan, the No. 3 metro line will connect to the airport by 2010, making for a faster way downtown.

For more details, visit www.gbiac.net


The Baby

Built in 1995, Zhuhai Airport is still considered the baby of the PRD gateways and has a great way to go before reaching their league. If anything notable can be said of it, the bi-annual Zhuhai Air Show, the largest event in China of this nature, is held there every two years.

The most recent took place last November 4 to 9 and featured the first-time participation of the People’s Liberation Army and appearance of the locally made J-10 aircraft.

THE OPTIONS: Despite partnership with HKIA, it has attracted only a few airlines such as China Eastern and China Southern. Total flights per day are about 20 and merely to domestic points such as Xiamen, Guiyang, Kunming and Guilin.

Since bus services between downtown Zhuhai, Henqin and Jiuzhou Port (Zhongshan was recently added to the route list) and the airport remains sparse, many passengers have chosen to use Guangzhou Baiyun airport instead.

In terms of facilities, there are 80 check-in desks, 17 air bridges, four baggage claim belts, nine boarding gates, a VIP lounge for First Class and Business Class customers and a retail/dining arcade.

THE FUTURE: So far, no announcement of expansion has been made.

For more details, visit www.zhairport.com

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