The Pearl River estuary, where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It encompasses Hong Kong, Macao, and nine cities in Guangdong, separated by wide bodies of water, making travel a significant challenge. The Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link is designed to remedy this by providing a streamlined connection across the estuary.

Spanning 24 km (15 miles), the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link connects the cities of Shenzhen and Zhongshan, situated on opposite banks of the Pearl River estuary. The link is not a single long bridge; instead, it features an underwater tunnel in the middle, flanked by two artificial islands, with bridges connecting each island to the respective city.

With eight lanes allowing speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph), the link reduces what was once a two-hour drive to just 30 minutes. After seven years of construction, the link opened to traffic at 3 pm local time on June 30.

According to the China Global Television Network (CGTN), the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link sets 10 new world records, which are highly specific yet impressive:

  • Largest span for a fully offshore steel box girder suspension bridge (1,666 m/5,466 ft)
  • Highest bridge deck (91 m/299 ft)
  • Highest navigation clearance for a sea bridge
  • Largest offshore suspension bridge anchor (344,000 m³/12 million ft³ of concrete)
  • Highest wind resistance test speed for a suspension bridge (83.7 m/273.6 ft per second)
  • Largest steel bridge deck with hot-mix epoxy asphalt paving (378,800 m²/4 million ft²)
  • Longest two-way, eight-lane immersed tube tunnel (5,035 m/16,519 ft)
  • Widest underwater steel shell-concrete immersed tube tunnel (up to 55.6 m/182.4 ft)
  • Largest single-volume cast for a steel-shell immersed tube using self-compacting concrete (29,000 m³/1 million ft³ per tube section)
  • Widest repeatedly foldable M-shaped water stop used in the final joint of an immersed tube tunnel (3 m/9.8 ft)

Additionally, the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link boasts the world’s first underwater expressway interchange and airport interchange. The tunnel section is equipped with advanced safety features, including new firefighting and smoke exhaust systems. A team of 14 robots patrols the tunnel, monitoring the pipes and cables to ensure smooth operation, and can even direct traffic and film accident scenes, transmitting the footage to a remote control center.

The tunnel also features color-coded light systems along the walls: green when all is well, red during emergencies, and progressively changing from yellow to green to guide people during evacuations.

The Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link joins the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge—the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge, located about 31 km (19 miles) away—in enhancing connectivity across the densely populated Pearl River estuary. This remarkable engineering feat promises to make travel in this bustling region more efficient and convenient.

By Impact Lab