China to build world’s biggest airport
When Beijing Daxing International airport opens in 2015, the Chinese capital will become the world’s busiest aviation hub, handling around 370,000 passengers a day.
It is only three years since the opening of Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital Airport, a sweeping structure designed by Sir Norman Foster that is far bigger than all of Heathrow’s five terminals combined.
But an enormous boom in China’s aviation industry has already left the capital’s existing facilities stretched to breaking point. “It is impossible to add even one more flight to the tight daily schedule of the Capital airport,” said Li Jiaxing, the minister in charge of China’s Civil Aviation Administration.
“The existing airport in Beijing has an annual capacity of 75 million passengers. Last year it handled 73 million,” said Cao Yunchun, a professor at the country’s Civil Aviation University. “In two years, it will be totally packed. And it cannot be expanded infinitely,” he added.
Instead, Beijing’s planners have found a 21 sq mile site to the south of the city, in the suburb of Daxing. Currently the site is around an hour’s drive from the city centre, but planners are pencilling in an extension to Beijing’s metro, and perhaps even a high-speed train line.
The new facility will not only serve Beijing, but also Tianjin and parts of Hebei as the Chinese capital morphs into a mega-city, its suburbs merging into those of the cities around it. The airport will be Beijing’s third, after Capital and the smaller, primarily military, Nanyuan airport.
Beijing Daxing is likely to have eight runways for civilian use and a ninth for military use, according to Yao Weihui, the general manager of China United Airlines. “The suggested location is a place with few residents and buildings, so a lot of runways can be built,” added Wang Jian, the secretary general of the China Civil Airport Association.
However, unlike London, which is currently the world’s busiest hub, the majority of the traffic going through Beijing is made up of domestic Chinese travellers. So far this year, Chinese passengers have outnumbered international travellers four-to-one at Beijing’s Capital airport.
Last year, China’s aviation industry reported profits of 43 billion yuan (£3.9 billion), three times the figure for the previous year. In the coming two decades, China is forecast to buy at least 4,300 new jet aircraft, and Boeing has recently upped its targets for the country by 25 per cent.
“We are expecting Beijing to play a major role in transport for the Asia Pacific region,” said Professor Cao.