Regional/ Regional

Transportation networks link Chengdu to the world

By Li Yu and Peng Chao | | Updated: 2016-01-26 10:18

Hello! I am Panda Rong Rong. In November, the airport in my home city, Chengdu, welcomed its 40 millionth passenger. We have flights that go all over the world, making it easier to visit my panda friends and me and explore our city, as well as an express rail cargo service that links the city with Europe. It’s exciting to see Chengdu connect with more and more cities, both in China and overseas.

— Panda Rong Rong

Poor transportation used to be a drag on the economic development of China's inland areas, but with modern means of transport, Chengdu has gained wings in recent years.

Though far from the coast, this hub city in Southwest China has risen to be one of the most open cities in China with its large airport and numerous international air routes.

The annual paseenger througput  throughput of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport surpassed 40 million on Dec. 10, making it the fourth airport on the Chinese mainland to handle more than 40 million passengers in a year, after Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

Transportation networks link Chengdu to the world

Clockwise from top left: Terminal 2 of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport; Passengers disembark at the airport on Dec. 10, when annual passenger throughput surpassed 40 million, making the airport the fourth on the Chinese mainland to do so in a year; the busy ring road system in Chengdu, which has four ring roads and one ring expressway; the local government has said it will build the city into an international transportation and logistics center.[Xie Minggang/ For China Daily; Photos provided to China Daily]

Clockwise from top left: Terminal 2 of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport; Passengers disembark at the airport on Dec. 10, when annual passenger throughput surpassed 40 million, making the airport the fourth on the Chinese mainland to do so in a year; the busy ring road system in Chengdu, which has four ring roads and one ring expressway; the local government has said it will build the city into an international transportation and logistics center.

Shuangliu International is expected to have handled 42 million passengers in 2015, ranking it among the world's top 30 airports in terms of passenger volume. The number of overseas passengers is expected to exceed 4 million.

Two days after it passed the 40-million milestone, Air China launched a direct route between Chengdu and Paris. Using an Airbus A330-200, Air China offers four round trips a week between the two cities. The one-way trip takes about 11 hours.

Chengdu has become a major air hub that connects China's central and western regions to Europe, with five non-stop routes linking it to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Moscow and Paris.

The city launched 10 new international flights last year alone, including eight direct flights to Chiang Mai in Thailand; Nha Trang in Vietnam; Colombo in Sri Lanka; Osaka in Japan; Moscow; Jeju Island in South Korea; Mauritius and Paris, and two connecting flights to Los Angeles and Dubai.

To date, the airport has 165 domestic and 85 international routes. Its airline network covers the major hub cities in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and Asia.

Chengdu is the first city in central and western China to adopt a 72-hour-visa-free policy, which allows passengers from 51 countries and regions to stay up to three days in Chengdu so long as they have a valid onward ticket to a third country.

Many of the airlines that run Chengdu routes have increased the number of flights to the city due to the good performance of the flights.

British Airways launched a direct Chengdu-London service in September 2013, the first to link the British capital with a city in central or western China. Within eight months, the airline had increased its number of flights from three to five a week and introduced the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner to the route.

In June 2014, United Airlines launched a thrice-weekly nonstop route between San Francisco and Chengdu. It is the first nonstop route connecting the United States to a city in China's central and western regions.

United Airlines increased the frequency of its nonstop Chengdu- San Francisco service from three times a week to daily in last summer.

Walter Dias, managing director for Greater China and Korea at United Airlines, said in a recent interview with China Daily that he was happy to see continued growth of revenue from Chengdu during the past year and a half.

"In the peak season, the load factor of the route has surpassed our Asia average, which ranges from 80 to 90 percent. As the market continues to grow, we hope to get daily service all year round in Chengdu," he said.

Dias said that United decided to open the route because demand has been growing in Chengdu and the western region with the pushing forward of China's go-west compaign.

A great number of multinationals are investing in Chengdu, and many of United's corporate clients, including Apple, Texas Instruments and Dell, have factories in Chengdu, he said.

National gateway

Located at the intersection of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, Chengdu is acquiring global attention with rich development opportunities and rapid economic growth.

In line with the Belt and Road Initiative and the national strategy to develop the Yangtze River Economic Belt, government leaders in Chengdu are building the city into an international transportation and logistics center, a national gateway for China's westward opening-up, and an "economic highland" in China's hinterland during its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).

According to the city plan, it will open at least three international nonstop routes in each of the next five years, which will enable the city to have 55 international non-stop routes by 2020.

"We will strengthen the city's status as a national-level aviation hub and gateway city in central and western China, building it into an ideal transfer station that connects Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia, Oceania and North America," said an official at the Chengdu Port and Logistics Office.

The city is scheduled to build a new airport southeast of Chengdu and 31 miles from Shuangliu airport, which will make it the third city on the Chinese mainland to have a second civil airport, after Beijing and Shanghai.

Tianfu International Airport, which will be larger than Shuangliu airport, will mainly serve international routes. The first phase of the new airport is scheduled to be completed by 2018, with annual capacity to handle 40 million passengers and 700,000 metric tons of cargo.

Rail transport

Chengdu also boasts an advanced rail transport system. Railways lines starting from Chengdu not only connect to cities all over China, but also to Central Asia and Europe.

The city opened the Chengdu- Europe Express Rail in April 2013, and the weekly train departs from the Chengdu Railway Container Logistics Center and terminates in Lodz, Poland. It takes about 10 days for the train to reach Lodz. From there, within three days, cargo shipments can be delivered to customers in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.

It is currently the fastest and most frequently used direct freight service between China and Europe, the Chengdu Port and Logistics Office said.

The express rail line transports laptops, iPads, auto parts, home appliances, clothing, shoes and toys produced in Chengdu and other Chinese cities to Europe, and brings back mechanical and electrical products, clothing, food and beverages.

Since its operation, the express rail has run 174 journeys to and from Chengdu, transporting 35,000 metric tons of cargo worth $780 million by Dec. 14. At least 300 cargo train trips in both directions will have been made some time this year, according to the city's latest plan.

Chengdu is becoming a key transportation hub for Asia and Europe as more cities link to the Chengdu-Europe Express Rail system.

The railway has expanded to eastern coastal cities including Shenzhen, Xiamen and Ningbo, and will soon connect to Kunming, Nanning and Wuhan. In Europe, the railway has been connected to Germany and the Netherlands.

The Chengdu-Central Asia Express Rail, opened in July 2014, connects Chengdu to Central Asian countries within nine to 11 days. By the end of November, the railway had run 28 journeys and transported cargo worth $29 million.

Chengdu is also upgrading its domestic railway network. By 2020, the railway network will make it possible to travel between Chengdu and nearby Chongqing within one hour; major cities such as Xi'an, Kunming, Guiyang and Wuhan within 4 hours; and to the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the Bohai Rim area within eight hours.

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