Traffic flows across Victoria Harbour returned to normal on Wednesday morning as the Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Hung Hom and Causeway Bay reopened for the first time in two weeks.
The tunnel reopened at 5am after work continued round the clock to clear damage caused by fires set by anti-government protesters who clashed with police in a siege at the Polytechnic University, adjacent to the Hung Hom entrance.
Large numbers of riot police were seen in the area at the time of the tunnel's reopening, while plastic barriers and nets are in place at pedestrian bridges to prevent the throwing of objects.
A gaping hole remains in the ceiling of one of the footbridges in Hung Hom, while the bus queues were far shorter than normal. However commuters said they were delighted to have the tunnel open again.
"The last week, I spent more than one and a half hours on the MTR," said one Yuen Long resident who works on Hong Kong Island. "It's much more easy, every day I can save half an hour" by using the tunnel, he added.
He said he was not overly concerned about the risk of tear gas residue following clashes in the area.
"I understand that there's a lot of analysis that this is not good for health," he said. "But everybody needs to work, so we cannot worry. We need to avoid spending a long time in such a critical area."
Trista, a student, said the closure of the tunnel had added half an hour to her commute from Hong Kong Island to Sha Tin.
"For the past days, I've taken the MTR and changed bus in Causeway Bay," she said. "For today, the tunnel is open. Now I only have to change one time, so it's more convenient."
Cross-harbour bus services also returned to normal on Wednesday after weeks of diversions which had forced drivers to use the other two harbour crossings.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Tuesday that the speedy reopening of the tunnel was nothing short of a "miracle". He had earlier floated the idea of opening the tunnel for free while work continued on toll booths, but this was not deemed necessary in the end.
Meanwhile a stand-off continued around Polytechnic University, where a handful of protesters are refusing to leave.
Last updated: 2019-11-26 HKT 09:26