Brown shaded area = Amsterdam City, Green = Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Beijing has started construction on a new mega-airport that will be roughly the size of Bermuda and have nine runways. 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.
Phew! While we prattle on about whether or not it’s “fiscally appropriate” to repair infrastructure built a half-century ago – and crumbling – the nations we compete with for commerce on a global stage are building for future business and other travel.
This is not how we got to be the nation we are; but, it certainly may be how we continue to lose stature and competitiveness.