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Airport capacity still insufficient, experts say
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Despite the expansion of Beijing Capital International Airport nearing completion, the civil aviation authority is already considering the construction of a fourth runway or second international airport to cope with soaring passenger numbers.


Capital's third runway, which became operational yesterday, and third terminal building, scheduled to open in February, will give the airport the capacity to handle 60 million passengers and 1.8 million tons of cargo every year.


However, while early forecasts said passenger throughput would not reach 60 million until 2015, more recent predictions have suggested the figure will be reached much sooner.


As a result, there is now debate over the development of either a fourth runway or second airport.


A civil aviation official for the North China area, who asked to be called Sun, told China Daily that relevant parties had already considered the matter.


"When we built the third runway, we gave ourselves the option to join it to a fourth if the government approved its construction," he said.


"However, during project feasibility meetings, a number of experts suggested an additional runway would not significantly increase the airport's handling capability."


Which is why the project was not launched, he said.


An alternative, Sun said, is to build a second airport. This idea has long been discussed but never developed as agreement could not be reached on its location.


He said, however, that despite five years of delays, the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) looked to be nearing a decision on a site for the facility.


The Beijing-based China Economic Weekly reported yesterday that the CAAC has submitted a proposal for the site to the central government for approval.


An unnamed CAAC official was quoted as saying the preferred site is to the south of the city near the Yongding River, which forms a boundary between Beijing and Hebei Province.


Wuqing in Tianjin Municipality and Nanyuan Airport in Daxing district had earlier been proposed as possible sites for development, the report said.


"When the location plan is approved by the central government, the CAAC will conduct a feasibility research," the official said.


Experts believe a second airport will greatly boost the economic development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area.


The National Development and Reform Commission approved a report in August 2003 that called for the construction of a second airport to commence in 2010 and be completed by 2015, the official said.


(Xinhua News Agency October 30, 2007)


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