A new sense of space
Beijing is still setting architectural trends. Its National Stadium, the 2008 Olympic Games venue aka the bird’s nest, has been followed by its new airport, which looks a bit like a starfish. Armin F. Schwolgin was on site for the ITJ at the inauguration of Daxing airport.
Beijing Daxing international airport (BDIA) was inaugurated on 25 September, with its opening also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. BDIA, whose Iata code is PKX, is located on the border between Beijing’s Daxing district and the city of Langfang, in the adjacent province of Hebei.
The Beijing / Tianjin / Hebei metropolitan area now has two major international hubs, namely Beijing Capital international airport (BCIA) in the northeast of the city, and this new gateway in Daxing.
BCIA was used by 101 million passengers in 2018, well above its planned total capacity of 85 million. Now the number of passengers is expected to fall to 76 million in the coming year, as a result of the relief provided by BDIA. The figure is then expected to rise to 82 million again by 2025.
The new airport is set to handle almost 29 million passengers in 2020; further expansion will bring it to 45 million in the following year. By 2025, the figure is expected to come in at 72 million. Final capacity in 2040 will stand at 100 million passengers.
Daxing airport is cradled in the landscape like a huge starfish. Approaching the hub on the motorway shows the efforts the designers made to set the airport in the surrounding landscape.
Construction of the airport complex began in 2014. It was designed by the deceased Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. The terminal’s interior is fed largely by natural sunlight.
A huge starfish, miles inland
Daxing airport is 46 km from Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing, 85 km from the airport of the port city of Tianjin, 74 km from the new economic zone in Xiongan, and 67 km from its twin gateway, BCIA.
Both of Beijing’s twin airports will concentrate on international civil aviation services, with BDIA operating four runways between 3,400 and 3,800 m long and 45 to 60 m wide.
Two of the nation’s state-owned airlines, namely China Southern and China Eastern, have moved to Daxing airport, together with members of the SkyTeam Alliance. The other state airline, Air China, and foreign members of the Star Alliance, including Lufthansa, will continue to operate from at BCIA as their hub.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China the airport in Tianjin will concentrate on domestic passenger flights and above all become a hub for international airfreight activities. Mainly full-freighters will probably operate from their home base there.
Tianjin to be the key air cargo hub
China Southern, which operates from Guangzhou, managed to complete its cargo terminal at BDIA in May. The old BCIA no longer offered the airline any expansion opportunities. BDIA is set to become China Southern’s northern freight hub. The company expects to handle 450,000 t of domestic freight and 200,000 t of international freight per year at BDIA.
Daxing is not only easy to reach by road, but also by rail, with the station located two levels below the terminal’s ground floor. Connections to the high-speed network are linked to the Beijing –Kowloon line. A new 34 km section of railtrack was built to this end.
The journey to the airport with the high-speed train from Beijing West station takes a mere 20 minutes. In order to make the twin airport cluster a real aggregate, work is being carried out to establish a rail link with BCIA too.
BDIA is additionally connected to the city centre by a driverless subway train, which can travel at speeds of no less than 160 km / h. This is completely new territory, especially as the legal basis to operate driverless trains has not been established yet.