South China's Guangdong province has allowed private vehicles from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to drive across the border to enter the province starting Saturday, further strengthening interconnection and promoting the integrated development among cities in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
On the first day, a total of 157 private cars from Hong Kong drove across the border to the Zhuhai special economic zone, located in western part of the mouth of the Pearl River.
Authorities from both Guangdong and Hong Kong have expressed a belief the number of private cars from Hong Kong to Guangdong would surge in the weeks to come.
According to the Hong Kong Transport Department, more than 4,000 Hong Kong residents had applied for licenses to drive across the border to Guangdong as of late June.
Fang Zhibo, a senior officer from the border inspection station of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, said his station has opened 22 car inspection lanes to help handle vehicle clearance procedures during peak traffic periods.
"Current handling capacity is nearly 600 vehicles per hour, which is about 20 percent higher than before," he said.
Insiders have estimated peak inbound traffic flow at the port is expected to occur between 9 am and noon and from 5 to 8 pm, while peak outbound traffic flow will occur after 6 pm.
Weekend peak traffic is expected to be 1.3 times greater than working days.
Under the program, Hong Kong residents who have successfully applied for an entry permit in advance are allowed to enter Guangdong through the highway port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
Cars from Hong Kong can stay in the province for up to 30 days each trip and up to 180 days a year.
"After the new program has taken effect, I can now reach Guangdong with just one step of the gas, it is so convenient," a Hong Kong resident surnamed Lee said.
The first Hong Kong car owner was given a bouquet of welcome flowers when he arrived at the bridge's checkpoint in Zhuhai on Saturday, the 26th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland.
He said he would visit the Zhuhai Space Center and major tourist attractions in Guangdong province.
The Guangdong provincial department of public security urged Hong Kong drivers to familiarize themselves with traffic rules in the mainland.
All traffic accidents occurring in Guangdong would be handled according to mainland traffic rules and regulations, the department said in a statement on Saturday.
Cars from Hong Kong have right-side steering wheels, opposite to vehicles from the mainland.
In the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which borders Hong Kong, departments are busy constructing and expanding parking lots and upgrading license plate recognition to meet demand from vehicles from Hong Kong in the months to come.
Priorities have been given to upgrading parking lots in busy commercial areas and at hospitals, where more Hong Kong residents may visit, the city's traffic bureau said. More than 20 parking lots with more than 10,000 spaces have been upgraded so far.
At least 100 parking lots in the city will be upgraded to recognize Hong Kong and Macao license plates by the end of the year, the bureau said.
Automatic recognition of plates will be a basic standard for new parking lots in Shenzhen in the coming months.