Bright colors glow and reflect on the river in this night view of the Bund in Shanghai. [Photo/VCG]
By Wang Ying in Shanghai
An airfield complex is taking shape in Shanghai-centered Yangtze River Delta region after Suzhou, a city 100 kilometer west of Shanghai, said it had completed preparations of building its first airport.
The city's regulator said it had wrapped up the work of planning location and airspace research at its first airport, sources from the local transportation bureau said.
A military and civilian mixed use airport project in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, of which the construction has began last year and, is also expected be completed by 2021, said the an online report in July.
In addition, Mayor of Nantong, Jiangsu Province Xu Huimin announced in July that the city's new airport planning has been included in the guideline of the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, and the new Nantong airport will become a key component of the Shanghai international aviation hub together with Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.
The three airports are all located in areas that are centered around Shanghai.
"These airports will serve as supplement of the existing aviation network of the Yangtze River Delta region, and further enhance the position of Shanghai as an international hub with a focus on providing flights to international and major Chinese destinations," said Li Lei, an industrial analyst with Minzu Securities.
Experts expect the aviation hub will facilitate the clustering of high-tech industries and further strengthen the area's global competitiveness.
Starting last August, Suzhou organized a task group in the planning and research of the airport. Lu Wenhua, head of the Suzhou transportation bureau, told China Business News that it is both necessary and urgent for a city like Suzhou to have its own airport. The city reported a GDP of 1.85 trillion yuan ($259 billion) in 2018, ranking seventh nationwide.
This is the latest development as cities near Shanghai have been in a rush to build their own airports in recent years. They include Nantong and Jiaxing, along with Shanghai's Chongming and Fengxian districts.
The three-year action plan of the Yangtze River Delta region integration development stated the region will form a nexus for the function and network of infrastructure facilities for a world-class city cluster by 2020. Reaching that target would require improvement in public services that would include aviation transportation.
The industries of the Yangtze Delta River region also require an updated aviation network for better transportation efficiency.
The construction of an airport will not only improve the city's economy, but also benefit local tourism, trade and logistics, and industrial development in the long term, said Li Xiaojin, a professor with the Civil Aviation University of China, adding that the high-tech industries of neighboring Nantong, Wuxi, Suzhou and Jiaxing will all benefit.
Experts suggested though that the construction of airports should take more factors into consideration.
"The Yangtze River Delta region has already been connected well with the high-speed train and road network, and an airport needs to reach a certain scale to be profitable," said a researcher from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He explained that a few redundant airports in western China performed poorly due to insufficient flights. "Local governments should collaborate to make their airports operate efficiently."
There are already seven airports in the region with an annual capacity of over 10 million passenger trips, and nine airports in Jiangsu province which have a capacity of more than 1 million passenger trips.