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Beijing to build second airport to meet traffic rush

January 12, 2011 16:44 IST
China plans to build a second airport in Beijing, which is expected to handle 60 million passengers a year, at a cost of whopping $15 billion to meet the growing rush of air-travellers in the country.

The capital's existing airhub, Beijing Capital International Airport, which is the second largest such facility in the world has already handled about 74 million passengers last year.

The capital's second airport is one of 11 new airports that China plans to build in 2011. "It is very urgent that we start building the second airport in Beijing now. It is now impossible to add even one more flight to the tight daily schedule of the capital airport," head of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Li Jiaxiang told state run China Daily.

The construction of the capital's second airport is likely to start this year, a year later than the civil aviation industry had expected. The new airport, with a planned capacity to handle at least 60 million passengers a year, is expected to shoulder part of the traffic pressure on Beijing Capital International Airport, Li said.

Beijing's airport has emerged as the world's second largest in terms of passenger traffic over taking London's Heathrow in terms of seating capacity last year. According to aviation experts Beijing is only next Atlanta Hartsfield airport in United States.

The Beijing airport handled 73.9 million passengers last year, a number close to its planned capacity of 76 million passengers by 2015.

All preparations are in place now, and the project's commencement only needs a nod from the State Council (cabinet), Li, who estimated the investment needed for the project will be "at least 100 billion yuan ($15 billion)" said.

The new airport is expected to be located in Daxing district in southern Beijing. The capital's second airport is one of 11 new airports that the CAAC plans to build in 2011. Some 55 billion yuan will be invested in airport construction and expansion this year, Li said. China already has 175 airports for civil aviation.

Meanwhile, the administration estimated that this year 290 new planes will be added to the fleet while 67 old planes will be withdrawn from service. The fleet is expected to expand to 1,827 planes, up from 1,604 at the end of 2010, according to the CAAC statistics.

The CAAC estimated that the air transport industry will ship 300 million passengers and 6.2 million tons of cargo this year. Last year, 267 million passengers travelled by air, up 16 per cent from 2009, and 5.57 million tons of cargo were transported by air, up 25 per cent year-on-year.

The industry earned a profit of 43.7 billion yuan in 2010, three times that of 2009, according to CAAC statistic Wang Changshun, deputy head of the administration said as well as its expansion plans, the CAAC's other priority this year is to prevent major accidents, hijacking and bombings from happening.

Last year, China's safety record of about 2,100 days - or 69 months - without a fatal accident ended after a Henan Airlines jet crashed near the runway of Yichun's Lindu Airport in August, killing 42 people.

Wang said that the CAAC will strictly monitor pilots' qualifications to ensure flight safety. The industry has also invested at least two billion yuan in improving anti-terrorism facilities to strengthen security.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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