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China's Xi declares new 450-billion-yuan Beijing airport is formally open

China's Xi declares new 450-billion-yuan Beijing airport is formally open
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the launching ceremony for the new Daxing International Airport at its terminal hall ahead of the 70th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, China September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Suen -
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BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing’s new multi-billion dollar airport, Daxing International, was formally declared open by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The 450-billion-yuan (£50.7 billion) project, completed in less than five years, will give a boost to infrastructure growth, flagging amid the biggest economic slowdown in decades, as China and the United States remain locked in a trade war.

The airport was hailed as “a new powerful source of national development” at a ceremony overseen by Xi in which top government officials, including He Lifeng, the head of the state planner and a vice premier, Han Zheng, participated.

The phoenix-shaped airport, abbreviated PKX, is located in Beijing’s south and will help ease pressure on the existing Capital International Airport in the capital’s northeast, where capacity constraints often cause flight delays.

Designed by the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, the new airport boasts four runaways and is expected to handle up to 72 million passengers a year by 2025, eventually reaching 100 million.

China aims to build Daxing, which is expected to become one of the world’s busiest airports, into a global aviation hub, as the country is forecast to overtake the United States as the world’s largest aviation market by 2022.

Rising out of farmland, Daxing airport is about 46 km (29 miles) away from Tiananmen Square, almost twice the distance from the Capital airport to central Beijing.

It will also accommodate passengers from the neighbouring areas of Hebei and Tianjin, linked by a sprawling network of high-speed and inter-city trains, metros and public buses.

An express train from the airport will take about 20 minutes to reach the south of Beijing.

China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines are the main airlines at Daxing, while about 50 foreign airlines, including British Airways and Finnair, plan to move all or part of their operations in the next few quarters.

Flag carrier Air China won 10% of the capacity at Daxing.

Against an initial plan for China Southern and China Eastern to move all operations to the new airport, with each getting 40% of its capacity, China Eastern has retained its highly profitable Beijing-Shanghai route out of the old airport.

The relocation of all airlines is to be completed by the winter of 2021.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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