In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

Analysis of Project Management Practices in Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Project


Author: Ma Ying     Translator: Zuo Jian     Source: PMR
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is featured with many records: China's first world-famous super project that integrates bridges, tunnels and artificial islands; the longest cross-sea steel bridge; the longest and deepest submarine immersed tunnel with the most accurate deep-sea docking. It is also the cross-sea bridge in China's transportation history with the longest mileage, the largest investment and the highest level of difficulty in terms of construction.

More importantly, spaning across Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai, connecting two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao and connecting Hong Kong with the west bank of the Pearl River, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is a bridge with special significance.

International Benchmarking, Innovative Decision-making Mechanism
As a world-class super-large-scale cross-sea project cluster, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is positioned as the highest level of super-engineering project in the world at initial stage. It is a great vision.

The vision of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project is to build a bridge integrating economic, cultural and psychological aspects of the three places and to make Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao a world-class regional centre. The vision can be extended and refined into three project goals, i.e. building world-class trans-ocean channels, providing quality services for users, and becoming landmark buildings.

All three project goals have rich and profound connotations and requirements. The construction of a world-class trans-ocean channel means that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will follow the vision of the world's top cross-sea channel. This is achieved by project management efforts by top design and consulting teams from China and overseas. It is assured that the designed service-life of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will reach 120 years. Providing high-quality services for users is to strengthen the demand guidance and fulfil the service function of “humanization” after the project completion. Becoming a landmark building means that architectural elements will be introduced into the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. The Bridge will become a landmark in various aspects such as functions, geography, industry and psychology.  It will become a new business card for Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao and even for the whole country.

As a bridge spaning across three places, the project needs close collaborations. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge was built under a multi-system of “one country, two systems”. The differences in the legal system, the management system, the technical conditions, the social environment and culture have led to different development concepts between three local governments, which has presented significant challenges to the project.

As a response to various complicated issues, the relevant authorities took the lead in establishing an innovative decision-making mechanism that is jointly managed by the three local governments. A three-level organizational structure was established, i.e. “Special Taskforce – Joint Committee of the Three Governments – Project Legal Person”. Among them, the special taskforce is led by the National Development and Reform Commission, with members from the relevant state departments and the three governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. The special taskforce mainly fulfilled the duties at the central government level, and coordinated major issues related to central affairs and major issues during the project process. The Joint Committee is convened by the Guangdong Provincial Government, with three representatives from the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. The committee represented the three local governments to coordinate and solve critical problems during the construction and operation stage. The project legal person is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority which is led by Guangdong Province and jointly established by all three parties, i.e. Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. It was responsible for specific implementation and operation management of the project.

Meanwhile, with the approval of the State Council, the Ministry of Transport formed an expert panel for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project that consists of top experts. This panel provided consulting and support in major technical solutions, demonstration of construction methods and solutions to major engineering problems. In addition, the tripartite government has jointly established a coordination team for cross-border commuting policies, a coordination team for cross-border environmental protection, and a taskforce for the coordination mechanism in emergency management.
Top-level Design
For such a world-class super-large-scale cross-sea project cluster, how to carry out project operation? There are no previous examples to draw from China and overseas. The project legal person system has fully played its leading role in the project management process. Based on the concepts of lifecycle integrated management and value engineering, “Project Management Plan for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Main Body Engineering Construction” was developed prior to the project implementation. The sound, comprehensive and well-structured project management plan reflects systematic project management thinking of the project legal person.

 “Project Management Plan for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Main Body Engineering Construction” is an overarching document for project management. A pyramid model of "project goals—management strategy—specific standards" is used to develop the project management planning framework. Systematic planning of project management is performed, including 11 components within three levels, i.e. core avenue, core elements and measures.

According to the project management plan, the project legal person developed the project management system and specific standards. Among them, the "Project Management System for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Main Body Engineering Construction" is a document to regulate the management behaviour of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority and the participating parties during the design and construction stages. It forms an integral part of the lifecycle project management system for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. The system consists of three levels: the first level of general outline (total of 1); the second level of management outline (total of 6); the third level of management methods and supplementary rules (48 in total, including 46 management methods and 2 supplementary rules).

Prior to the bidding, the project legal person systematically analyzed the boundary conditions of the project. After in-depth planning, multi-dimensional market research and comprehensive promotion of the project, the overall positioning and objectives of the project were clarified and the “Tendering Management Plan for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge” was formulated. The bidding sections were divided appropriately, and the contract interfaces were determined properly. Meanwhile, different management modes were adopted according to the project characteristics. For instance, design and construction general contracting mode was adopted for the island tunnel project; the traditional approach of design and construction separation was adopted for the bridge project, system integration approach was adopted for traffic engineering and housing construction. This has effectively facilitated the project management. Through in-depth market research, the information related to the project construction was effectively and positively conveyed; the technical reserve, risk management capability, market competitiveness, and upstream and downstream support of the complex chain in the current market were comprehensively understood. Potential quality resources were identified for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project.

In addition, the project legal person took the lead to develop the "Informationization Plan for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge", "Quality Management Planning Outline for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge", and " Occupational Health, Safety, Environmental Protection (HSE) Management Planning Outline for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge". These plans have laid solid foundation for the effective and efficient management of quality, safety, environment, occupational health (HSE) and information. These are very useful to improve the performance of project management.

It should be noted that the specific standard system for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge consists of special standards/guidelines such as design, construction and quality assessment, operation and maintenance, and quotas for offshore construction. The project management system for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge consists of four levels of documents, i.e. the general outline, outlines, measures and rules and the internal management system of the Authority. Both the special standard system and project management system reflect the concepts of full-lifecycle management and value engineering. Indeed, they are essential supportive documents for the realization of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge construction goals.

Partnership: Linking International Resources
"Partnership" is the concept promoted by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is a systematic super-engineering project based on independent innovation. Due to significant difficulties (e.g. high risks and high expectations), it is necessary to integrate the first-class resources around the world. All parties cooperate with each other to solve problems and establish partnerships.

The participating parties are characterised by strong internationalism throughout various project stages. These parties come from all over the world such as the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Japan. A total of 12 enterprises are from overseas. They contributed around 100 staff to the project, with the total contract amount of nearly 300 million RMB.

This project is under the context of deep international participation and high concentration of the best quality resources in China. In order to meet the relevant provisions of domestic laws and regulations, and to effectively introduce high-quality resources from overseas, the Sino-foreign cooperation joint model was adopted in this project. Indirect approaches such as design consultation review were employed to introduce overseas high-quality resources in the following three key areas.

First, foreign excellent design teams were introduced in the tender for the preliminary design of the bridge. For example, Danish Kewei International Consulting Co., Ltd. (COWI), the UK Arupal Engineering Consultant (ARUP) and other international companies participated in the design of immersed tunnels and the design of steel box girder bridges. During the tendering of the bridge construction drawing design, Chodai and Holcrow participated in the design of steel box girder structure and steel composite beam structure design. Second, the whole-process design and construction consulting services or special consulting services were established that are directly responsible to the owners. For example, in consulting services on design and construction, the immersed tunnel and bridge consulting teams were introduced, including the Dutch Tunnel Engineering Consulting Company (TEC). During the whole process of construction, Mott McDonald, the internationally renowned engineering consultancy was employed. The company (Mott MacDonald) is a quality management consultancy, which promotes the improvement of project quality management. Finally, the design cross-check or construction consulting service was introduced in the construction team. For example, the foreign immersed tunnel design consultation and review team (e.g. AECOM, COWI, NCC Japan) were introduced in the tendering of the design and construction of the island tunnel project.

The introduction of the international team provided support for the control of system risks and major risks, optimization and control in detail design and manufacturing as well as new concepts, new technologies and new construction techniques in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Indeed, “partnership” facilitated an excellent project culture based on open innovation, accountability and dedication in the project. It reflects the integration of humanities management, flexible management and dynamic management.

Multiple Approaches to Manage a Mega System

1) Innovative integrated management
The system integration technologies derived from China high-speed rail industry are applied in the traffic engineering of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. This is the very first in traffic engineering projects in China.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is the first in the expressway engineering sector in China to employ the system integration model. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge traffic project covers 12 disciplines: power distribution, lighting, toll, communication, monitoring, traffic safety facilities, ventilation, fire protection, water supply and drainage, integrated pipelines, lightning protection grounding, and integrated pipelines. The types and functions of devices vary according to disciplines. In addition, there are significant overlap between data across different systems.  There are numerous interface protocols between devices.

This is an unprecedented mega system in the field of highway traffic engineering in China. The construction of the project is very large and complicated. So far, a number of breakthrough research achievements have been made: for the first time, a toll system compatible with the two systems of three places (i.e. Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao) has been adopted, and the bridge wing has been developed for the first time. For the first time, the horizontal displacement cable expansion device was developed for the water supply and drainage pipeline installation. The large-scale emergency power supply system with lithium battery (EPS/UPS) was used for the first time. For the first time, the oversized water supply pipe expansion scheme was adopted. These have led to dozens of patents.

2) Unified standards and specifications
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority commissioned design, consulting consortiums and research institutes to collect relevant existing specifications in the three places and other countries in the world, to analyze and compare the applicability of the specifications, and to propose standardized use requirements according to specific design contents and project characteristics. Starting from the feasibility study, a complete project technical standard system was gradually established. It covers various aspects (e.g. design, construction and operation), forming the special technical standards for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Among them, the designed service-life of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is determined as 120 years, following the British Standard. The highest European standard was used for the technical requirements of concrete. The width of the roadway followed the Chinese Mainland standard of 3.75 meters; the width of the emergency lane followed the Hong Kong standard of 3.1 meters. In the design of the quality management system, reference is made to the introduction of the product certification system for concrete production in Hong Kong and Macao, as well as high-speed rail construction in mainland China.

At present, 57 technical standards and 28 individual product standards have been formed. These standards reflect the latest technical level of bridge and island tunnel construction in China. They not only better support the construction, but also systematically fill in the gap of technical standards for offshore transportation construction.

3) Managing cross-border access
Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao have great differences in the management systems, methods and working procedures of public projects. The cross-border traffic policy of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is complex. It requires coordination of management rules, toll fee standards, toll collection rights, vehicle usage policies, port feeder bus arrangements and other public management matters. There are enormous demands for the coordination of the governments and the cooperation with relevant government departments (e.g. customs, border defence, fire, traffic police, waterways, maritime, water conservancy, environmental protection, ports, foreign exchange, etc.). Therefore, the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao governments have established a coordination team for cross-border access policy to carry out studies on key public management issues such as cross-border vehicle regulation and quota systems, cross-boundary vehicle tolls, traffic management, operation and maintenance, rescue and emergency plans, law enforcement coordination, customs access facilitation.

To facilitate the use of Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) users in Hong Kong and Guangdong, the ETC system adopted in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is compatible with Hong Kong and national standard, using single-lane ETC charging technology based on 5.8G and Hong Kong Autotoll electronic tags. It is the first time in the world that different types of charging modes have been made compatible in the same system. Vehicles from three places can use the same system where each charging only takes 337 milliseconds.

4) Applying BIM technology
Unlike the ordinary single-form lighting, the colourful lights of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge gradually change the colour and strength, which makes the Pearl River coast at night seem like a dream. How is this fantastic lighting achieved? This is a powerful Building Informatization Modeling (BIM) system which was built with tens of thousands of data over two years. The application of BIM technology has brought the management of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to a new level. The intuitive 3D mode provides an unobstructed view of the bridge equipment pipeline, allowing workers to check space management and equipment maintenance data streams at any time, and update data in real time for quick location and discovery. Via BIM visualization and information integration, the pipeline layout of each subsystem of the traffic engineering is analyzed and optimized in advance by creating a three-dimensional model. This helps to effectively deal with the installation space of each subsystem of the traffic engineering, and to optimize the management of the equipment component library. It is the first time in the world that the BIM system has been used in the highway industry to display the data flow of electromechanical equipment. It is foreseeable that the BIM system will not only meet the construction needs, but also will continue to exert its strength in future operation and maintenance.

The completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge marks a new breakthrough in infrastructure interconnection between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. The construction process is of significance for the projects in “One Belt and Road Initiative” and it is the typical Chinese story of the “Manufacturing Power” in the project management community. It will become a new business card for the national image of China.

About the author: Ma Ying, Special Correspondent for Project Management Review magazine

About the translator: Zuo Jian, Doctor’s degree, is a Professor at the School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Adelaide. His main research interest is to achieve sustainable built environment through holistic approach. Dr Zuo’s recent publications address various issues associated with low carbon built environment from technological, managerial, social and legal perspectives. At the moment he is Chief Investigator of three projects funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China on sustainability related issues such as relationship between sustainability and competitiveness, air pollution, and construction waste management.

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