China is build­ing sec­ond enor­mous air­port in Bei­jing

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Liu Yang

BEI­JING – Be­fore the Bei­jing Olympics in 2008, the Chi­nese cap­i­tal un­veiled a new air­port ter­mi­nal that cov­ered about 200 foot­ball fields in floor space, boasted a ca­pac­ity of 50 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year and cost $4 bil­lion.

That’s mod­est com­pared to what Bei­jing is open­ing next.

Crews are putting the fi­nal touches on what will be one of the world’s largest and busiest air­ports. De­signed by the late British ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did, the phoenix-shaped Bei­jing Daxing In­ter­na­tional Air­port is due to open in Septem­ber as the lat­est ma­jor Chi­nese project even as the coun­try’s econ­omy cools.

Of­fi­cials say the $12 bil­lion Daxing air­port could one day serve more than 100 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year, ap­proach­ing the traf­fic vol­umes of the busiest air­port in the world, Harts­field-Jack­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port in At­lanta.

Ris­ing out of farm­land about 30 miles south of cen­tral Bei­jing, the new trans­port hub is a tes­ta­ment to the growth in civil avi­a­tion in China – which is ex­pected to over­take the United States as the largest mar­ket in the early- or mid2020s – and the govern­ment’s vi­sion to de­velop its in­dus­trial north through in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment.

The air­port con­struc­tion started in 2014 be­fore China’s econ­omy be­gan to slow. But it fits into the pri­or­i­ties of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, whose govern­ment con­tin­ues to spend heav­ily on in­fras­truc­ture and trans­porta­tion as key driv­ers of devel­op­ment.

The coun­try in­vested $120 bil­lion and $12 bil­lion in rail­ways and civil avi­a­tion, re­spec­tively, in 2018, ac­cord­ing to trans­porta­tion au­thor­i­ties.

The cap­i­tal’s main air­port now, Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port north­east of the city, has been strain­ing at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity for years and plagued by de­lays, said Yi Wei, deputy man­ager of the Daxing air­port’s plan­ning depart­ment.

“It’s heav­ily over­loaded,” Yi said. “We es­ti­mate, ba­si­cally, that about 400 flights ev­ery day are held up be­cause of air traf­fic con­trol ap­proval.”

The num­ber of Chi­nese fliers has been ris­ing faster than air­ports can keep up. An­nual pas­sen­ger traf­fic reached 1.264 bil­lion in 2018, up 10.2 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, says the Civil Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China. China will over­take the United States as the world’s largest avi­a­tion mar­ket by 2022, two years sooner than pre­vi­ously pre­dicted, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion.

In­dus­try an­a­lysts say that while a new air­port is badly needed, it still may not solve the long-stand­ing prob­lem of de­lays. China has some of the strictest con­trols on fly­ing dur­ing bad weather, of­ten lead­ing to mass ground­ings dur­ing thun­der­storms.

It also has one of the tight­est con­trols on civil­ian airspace. Only a quar­ter of the coun­try’s airspace is open to civil­ian jets, while the rest is re­served for the mil­i­tary. That ra­tio is re­versed in the United States.

The new air­port in Bei­jing’s far south is also part of a ma­jor project by the Chi­nese govern­ment to de­velop the plain that in­cludes the cities of Bei­jing and Tianjin as well as the smog-blan­keted He­bei prov­ince, which has mostly re­lied on agri­cul­ture and in­dus­tries like steel for eco­nomic growth.

Daxing air­port will be at the cen­ter of the new eco­nomic zone and will be ac­ces­si­ble by rail to Xiong’an, a He­bei prov­ince farm­ing town where China will re­lo­cate many “non­core” cen­tral govern­ment of­fices, es­sen­tially cre­at­ing a se­condary Chi­nese cap­i­tal from scratch.

Cao Yunchun, a pro­fes­sor from the In­sti­tute of Air­port Eco­nom­ics, Civil Avi­a­tion Uni­ver­sity of China in Tianjin, said the new air­port will stim­u­late the devel­op­ment of the rel­a­tively poor south of Bei­jing and nearby He­bei prov­ince.

“In the fu­ture, the area will be a hub for the flow of peo­ple, the flow of trav­els, the flow of phys­i­cal goods, the flow of cap­i­tal, and the flow of tech­nol­ogy,” he said. The new air­port has also promised to serve pas­sen­gers from 28 cities, who would be able to reach the air­port within three hours through high-speed rail.

It has four run­ways and a 3.37 mil­lion square foot ter­mi­nal build­ing and plans to ac­com­mo­date 72 mil­lion pas­sen­gers and 2 mil­lion tons of cargo an­nu­ally by 2025, with a longterm an­nual tar­get of han­dling over 100 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, 4 mil­lion tons of goods, and op­er­at­ing six run­ways. The new air­port is phoenix-shaped, in con­trast with the ex­ist­ing dragon-in­spired Bei­jing air­port.

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