A total of 1,600 Hong Kong private car owners have been selected to become the first applicants of the Northbound Travel for Hong Kong Vehicles program, a scheme that allows them to use their eligible vehicles to travel between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Guangdong province via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
The 1,600 applicants were selected through "computer ballot" from more than 16,000 hopefuls who signed up on Monday and Tuesday. The ballot results were announced at 10 am on Wednesday.
The shortlisted applicants, who will receive an assigned application date by email, can formally apply between Thursday and June 10.
Once approved, applicants will be issued a Closed Road Permit that costs HK$540 ($69) per year or HK$45 per month, as well as a Chinese mainland electronic vehicle license, with which they will be allowed to use their eligible vehicles to travel between Hong Kong and Guangdong via the bridge starting July 1.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said last month that the program will provide a convenient way for Hong Kong residents to drive to Guangdong to visit families, go sightseeing and embrace the opportunities brought by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. It will also mark an important milestone in the economic integration and development of the GBA, he added.
The Hong Kong government estimated that over 450,000 car owners and passengers will ultimately benefit from the program.
Though Hong Kong residents can currently submit applications to be allowed to drive across the border into Guangdong, it's difficult for ordinary people to get permits, as they were intended for professionals who frequently travel between the city and the mainland. And while private car owners can apply for one-time entry permits to enter Guangdong through the Shenzhen Bay Port, such permits are only valid for seven days.
Under the program, applicants' vehicles can stay for up to 30 consecutive days upon each entry to the mainland and for a maximum of 180 days within a year.
Hong Kong film director Lee Lik-chi said he believes the program can help more Hong Kong residents capitalize on the convenience of the one-hour living circle in the GBA.
Lee has been working on the mainland for years and has obtained a regular cross-border permit for his vehicle. He said he has witnessed the rapid development of the GBA over the years, and he encourages more Hong Kong residents to apply for the program so they can visit Guangdong.
The number of vehicles that can travel across the bridge every day will be capped. Approved car owners can reserve a day of travel via an online booking system about 15 days in advance.
To ensure the program operates smoothly, a system was introduced to limit the number of applications that could be processed at a time, with a cap of 200 applications per working day during the first week and 300 per day from the second week. The daily processing capacity will be gradually increased, according to the Hong Kong government.
The balloting for applicants will be held twice a month on average. The next round will be from June 5 to 8, and the results will be announced on the 9th.
Since Jan 1, private cars from Macao have been allowed to enter and leave Guangdong via the HZM Bridge under a similar program. By early April, the program had enabled over 100,000 Macao vehicles to cross the mainland-Macao border.