Beijing’s new airport opened by President Xi

Beijing – Having taken five years and more than 80 billion yuan (US$11 billion) to complete, Daxing International Airport was declared open in a short announcement by Xi on Wednesday, six days before the October 1 National Day holiday.

The world’s biggest single-terminal airport building, at 7.53 million sq ft, it has a distinctive star-shaped layout and is the first airport to have two-storey departure gates, to increase capacity.

Chinese authorities hope Daxing will become one of the world’s busiest international transport hubs, eventually handling more than 100 million passengers a year and being a hub for the country’s rapidly growing civil aviation market.

Located 46km south of central Beijing, the seven-runway facility is expected to handle 72 million passengers a year by 2025, and is intended to relieve pressure on the overcrowded Beijing Capital International Airport – ranked the world’s second-busiest in 2018 by the World Airport Traffic Report.
State media hailed the Zaha Hadid-designed airport as an architectural marvel. Despite its size, the single-terminal design meant passengers would be able to transfer to domestic or international flights in as little as 45 minutes, Kong Yue, the airport’s deputy general manager, told The Beijing News.

A plan published in January by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) showed that China Eastern and China Southern would relocate their flights to the new airport.

An airport express train will transport passengers to Beijing in under 20 minutes at speeds of up to 160km/h (99mph), making it the fastest subway in China. It is intended that it will eventually be connected to the nationwide high-speed railway network.

Among the ceremony’s several hundred attendees were vice-premiers Han Zheng and Liu He, as well as Civil Aviation Administration director Feng Zhenglin, Hebei party chief Wang Dongfeng, and Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary for Beijing.

“Xi Jinping attaches particular importance to and has personally encouraged the development of Daxing International Airport, a major engineering project that is symbolic of the capital,” Han said in a speech at the event.

“It will significantly improve the global competitiveness of national airlines, promote our country’s continued opening up to the wider world, and ease pressure on Beijing’s facilities.”

The Beijing government is working with neighboring Hebei province to develop the wider area surrounding the airport as an “airport economic zone”, which will also include some southern districts of the capital. The government hopes the new zone will be a hi-tech hub for industries such as electronics manufacturing and logistics.

Hebei is also where China plans to build a new hi-tech innovation metropolis to alleviate overcrowding in Beijing – an ambitious megaproject personally led by Xi.

Located 100km southwest of Beijing and designed to be three times the size of New York City, the planned Xiongan New Area could revitalize the rural and heavily polluted region.

This would create an economic belt between Hebei and the major cities of Beijing and Tianjin, similar to that in the Greater Bay Area linking Hong Kong, Shenzhen and several cities in the Pearl River Delta, in Guangdong province. The Greater Bay Area is also home to the Hong-Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge – the world’s longest sea crossing, at 55km – which took eight years to complete and attracted controversy by overshooting its budget by billions of dollars.

If completed, Xiongan New Area would be the largest infrastructure project in the history of modern China, but it too has been labelled controversial by domestic urban planning, environmental and economic experts. (SCMP)