Second Beijing airport likely
Beijing will probably build its second international airport within the capital -- instead out with its boundary -- and open it in 10 years, leading aviation officials told China Daily Wednesday.
"We have an initial plan to build a new airport in the suburbs of southern Beijing ... somewhere up to 90 kilometres southwest of the present Beijing International Airport," said Zhang Guanghui from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC).
It is the first time the aviation authorities have dismissed widespread speculation that the city of Langfang in neighbouring Hebei Province had been picked as the venue for the new facility.
Zhang, director of CAAC's influential Airport Department, said the location plan was still being drafted and may subject to further change.
There are already seven airports around Beijing, making the job of choosing the site extremely difficult, Zhang said.
"Building the airport within the boundary of Beijing is 'technically more correct' than in Langfang," Zhang told China Daily in an exclusive interview.
He said that from an air transport perspective, building the new airport in southern Beijing will not "conflict" with the current airport, which is in northeastern Beijing and is 22.35 kilometres from the city centre --Tian'anmen Square.
Chen Guoxing, chief of the Beijing Capital Airport Expansion Project Headquarters, is more specific.
"The new airport will be located about 40 kilometres directly south of Tian'anmen Square," he said.
That will put the site somewhere close to Daxing District of Beijing.
However, Sheng Licheng, director of the Daxing District Development and Reform Commission, Wednesday said he so far had no information about the location plan.
Sheng told China Daily that although his district in southern Beijing could accommodate an airport -- the capital has mountains to its west and north --the capital urban planning authorities have the final say.
With annual traffic at China's busiest airport expected to more than double to 60 million passengers by 2015, from 23.5 million in 2003, the Beijing Capital International Airport has already started the building of a US$2-billion new terminal (Terminal 3).
By the time the current airport reaches its designed capacity of handling 60 million passengers a year in 2015, the second international airport will be put into use, Chen said.
CAAC Vice-Minister Yang Guoqing Wednesday also confirmed a new airport will be available for Beijing by 2015.
Chen said construction of the new airport will start in 2010. Its designed passenger handling capacity will reach 50 million a year .
"Beijing needs two airports," CAAC's Zhang said. "Many major cities in the world have more than one international airport when air traffic volume exceeds 100 million passengers."
Beijing, being China's largest air traffic hub, will see the number of air travellers surge to 100 million within 20 years, Chen said.
The current airport was expanded twice late in the last century. The second passenger terminal (Terminal 2) was finished in 1999, when the first terminal was shut down for refurbishment.
At a ceremony yesterday in the airport, China Southern Airlines -- the nation's largest air carrier -- announced it will start using the old terminal building (Terminal 1) on September 20 for domestic air routes, after the building underwent 14 months of renovation.
Li Peiying, general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co, said Terminal 3, which is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2007, will serve Air China -- China's flagship air carrier -- and its alliance airline companies, as well as foreign airlines, while Terminal 2 will be used by Chinese air carriers flying on both domestic and overseas routes.