Wuhan set to become China's 4th air hub
www.chinaview.cn 2006-12-21 10:03:52

Wuhan Tianhe Airport (File Photo)

Wuhan Tianhe Airport (File Photo)
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    BEIJING, Dec. 21 -- Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, is tipped to become the country's fourth air hub after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

    International flights will soon start arriving at and leaving from Wuhan Tianhe Airport without first stopping at Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. At present, international flights to inland cities all stop at one of the three hubs first.

    Liu Gaosheng, spokesman of Hubei Airport Group, told China Daily that the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) had drafted policies to support the development of Wuhan as an aviation hub.

    "Wuhan will be a pilot city in the country's effort to reform its air transport sector. Any new reform policy to be promulgated nationwide will first be implemented in Wuhan on a trial basis," Liu said.

    According to documents signed by the CAAC and Hubei provincial government in October, both foreign and domestic airlines will have full traffic rights at Wuhan.

    Foreign and domestic airlines will be able to operate non-stop international flights to Wuhan, as well as international flights that stop first at Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

    Domestic airlines will be allowed to operate routes and flights linking Wuhan and other domestic cities without first seeking approval from the CAAC, which is a must for most new routes. Instead, airlines will only need to report the routes and flights to the CAAC. Domestic airlines will be also encouraged to set up branches at Wuhan.

    By 2010, Wuhan is expected to serve at least five international and 100 domestic routes. Some 12.2 million passengers are expected to pass through Wuhan each year, and the city's cargo-handling capacity is to reach 144,000 tons.

    The CAAC reportedly chose Wuhan for its geographic advantages. The city sits at the center of China's airline route network.

    Developing Wuhan into an air hub will not only support efforts to develop Central China, but also link the country's far-flung regions, easing access to western China's resources and market, said a government document.

    At present, Wuhan Tianhe Airport has one runway and one terminal. It ranked 16th place among the country's domestic airports in 2004.

    Lin Hua, a media officer with Wuhan Tianhe Airport, told China Daily that the airport expects its ranking to improve this year. It expects to serve more than 6 million passengers this year, a record in its history.

    "The airport is also building a second terminal, which has a floor area of 121,200 square meters and a designed capacity to handle 13 million passengers and 320,000 tons of cargo a year," Lin said.

    The expansion project is expected to be complete by the end of next year, with a total cost of 3.37 billion yuan (421.5 million U.S. dollars).

    Preparations for further expansion work are expected to be finished by the end of 2008, according to the agreement signed by the CAAC and the provincial government.

    The expanded Wuhan Tianhe Airport is expected to be a comprehensive transportation hub. A high-speed passenger rail link and subway system will eventually be connected to the airport. The planning and construction of these rail links will start before 2010.

    At present, China's three air hubs -- Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou -- handle 40 percent of the country's passenger and cargo transport, "a situation that needs changing," said Ouyang Jie, professor at the Civil Aviation University of China.

    "Airports in western and central China should handle a greater share of the passenger and cargo volume, for the sake of the development of the civil aviation industry," he said.

    Both the CAAC and Hubei Province have promised to provide financial support to develop Wuhan into an air hub.

    The CAAC agreed to devote 150 million yuan (18.8 million dollars) to upgrading the security infrastructure at Wuhan airport and other airports in the province. An additional 50 million yuan (6.3 million dollars) will be earmarked by the CAAC to transform Wuhan airport into an alternative airport for A380 Airbuses.

    (Source: China Daily)

Editor: Nie Peng
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