The construction of a second airport at Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, will help to create an air Silk Road to Europe, a senior official said on March 7.
Plans for the 69 billion yuan ($11 billion) airport were approved in January, and construction is due to begin at the end of the year.
“Besides a land Silk Road and a maritime Silk Road, we should have an air Silk Road, with people and cargo flying to Europe from China,” said Tang Limin, a deputy to the National People’s Congress and the director of Sichuan’s Development and Reform Commission.
“Sichuan is an inland province, but it is closer to Europe than coastal areas. With the new airport, Sichuan will be the largest transportation hub in southwest China, and the start point of the air Silk Road.”
Tang, speaking at the annual session of the NPC in Beijing, said the new airport will be Sichuan’s biggest investment so far. Chengdu will become only the third city on the mainland to have a second airport, after Shanghai and Beijing.
The airport will have three runways, and will have an annual capacity of 40 million passengers and 700,000 metric tons of cargo. By 2025, it will be able to handle 320,000 aircraft movements a year. Construction is due to be completed in 2017.
“I have flown from Chengdu directly to London many times,” added Tang. “No transfer, just nine hours. After the new airport is built, more people will be able to enjoy the trip, and our products will get to European customers faster.”
The site earmarked for the airport currently consists of grassland and fields. Zhong Shulin, who lives at a nearby village, said the weather in the area tends to be very mild, with little wind or fog.
“I am very curious about what the new airport is going to be like,” said Zhong.
Wu Xiliang, head of the planning office for the project, said a new community with 100,000 residents and covering 10 square kilometers will be built nearby. Construction will start in 2015, and the plans include hotels, exhibition halls and offices.
Deng Ling, an economics professor at Sichuan University, said the airport will give Chengdu and Sichuan a remarkable advantage in the aviation sector. It will speed up logistics and the movement of people, and this could accelerate the province’s economic development.
“It will also provide a fast and efficient channel for local products being sent overseas, and products from abroad being brought here. Chengdu will become even more international.”
Wei Hong, governor of Sichuan, said the province will participate in the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the construction of the Yangtze River Economic Belt.
“The expansion of the railway network in Sichuan gives the region a huge economic fillip,” said Wei.
“A new railway line, which began to operate in 2013, links Sichuan and Europe.”
Chengdu is the only city in China with regular rail services to five central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“Besides the land transportation network, Sichuan is making efforts to build an integrated international pathway,” Wei said.
Peng Chao contributed to this story.
Location: The new airport will be in Jianyang’s Lujia county, 51.5 km from Chengdu’s downtown area.
Construction: Due to begin in December 2015 and to be completed in 2017.
Terminal: 520,000 square meters.
Aircraft stands: 157.
Cargo terminal: 59,000 square meters.