Shanghai Airport Expansion Approved

The central government has formally approved a 15.3 billion yuan expansion of Shanghai's domestic airport, including a second runway and new terminal, as the city moves forward with plans to build a major air hub.

The National Development and Reform Commission approved the expansion of Shanghai Hongqiao Airport at the weekend, the Shanghai Securities News reported yesterday. An official of Hongqiao Airport Co confirmed completion was scheduled for 2010, when Shanghai will host the World Expo.

Shanghai has ambitions of becoming a major international aviation hub, and Hongqiao airport is already operating over capacity. The city's other airport, Pudong, handles all overseas flights as well as some domestic ones.

The Hongqiao expansion includes a new 3.3km runway and a 250,000-square-metre terminal. The airport has an existing single 3.4km runway and terminal space of 81,600 square metres.

The expansion will allow the airport to handle 40 million passengers a year, the projected demand in 2015. Hongqiao received 19 million passengers last year, double its designed capacity of 9.6 million.

In an annual policy address in January, Shanghai Mayor and acting party secretary Han Zheng said building an aviation hub was a priority for the city.

"We will accomplish phase-one targets of Shanghai's aviation-hub plans, completing the expansion of Pudong International Airport and accelerating construction of the Hongqiao Integrated Transportation Hub, and the refurbishment and expansion of Hongqiao airport," he said.

Shanghai has previously announced intentions to extend the city's existing maglev train line to connect the two airports as part of the transport hub plan. The maglev links Pudong airport with a metro station in Pudong district.

The city plans to finish expansion of Pudong airport, completing construction on its second terminal and third runway, this year.

Shanghai started clearing land for the expansion of Hongqiao airport last year, sparking massive protests by people living on the site. Residents have complained about low compensation and corruption in dispersing the funds, and some are still refusing to move.

Although the project was tainted by the sacking of former party secretary Chen Liangyu , who was dismissed for corruption last September, the approval shows it is now moving ahead. Shanghai has cancelled plans to build the world's largest Ferris wheel, while criticism has arisen about the cost of the Oriental Arts Centre, both projects linked to Mr Chen.

Local governments had previously floated plans to build a new airport somewhere between Nanjing and Shanghai, but that idea fell victim to moves to slow the mainland's economy.

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