Transport network will smooth the ride

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 12:00am

New bus services, an expressway and possible light-rail will link airport to city's downtown

Business leaders with a vested interest in the country's largest air link agree the new Baiyun airport is a much needed improvement to the city's infrastructure and can certainly bring economic gains to the area.

Being further away from the city centre than the old airport, a comprehensive transport structure is crucial to the logistics of the new airport.

Guangzhou is said to be spending between 40 billion yuan and 50 billion yuan over the next five years to boost transport infrastructure and cement the city's role as the regional capital.

About 150 buses divided into eight routes will shuttle passengers to the new Baiyun International Airport in Huadu, nearly 30km from the city centre.

The eight bus lines, of which only two are now in service, are in downtown areas as well as in the greater Guangzhou areas of Panyu and Zhengcheng.

Another five bus lines are slated to run from the Pearl River Delta to the airport.

Ticket prices for the shuttle service range from 15 yuan to 32 yuan, depending on the location.

Airport officials said only Lines 1 and 2 were working now, but additional lines would soon be up and running.

Line 1 runs from the Civil Aviation Administration of China ticket office at the main train station to the Central Hotel to the city.

Tickets from the CAAC office cost 16 yuan. Line 2 runs from the Guangyun Hotel at Favorview Palace through the Garden Hotel area.

Tickets from the Garden Hotel cost 17 yuan.

According to the new airport's shuttle service Baiyunport, other lines will run from locations such as the Fangcun Long Distance Bus Station, the Pearl Garden Hotel in the new Economic Development Zone, the Dongfang Hotel, Pearl River New City in Tianhe, Panyu and Zhengcheng.

The city also plans to construct a light-railway system that will run direct to the new airport.

But no feasibility study has been done on the proposed 35km line that would link the new airport to the city's East Railway Station.

Airport officials said routes to and from the new airport included the main railway station, the Dongfang Hotel, the Garden Hotel area and Huajin New City in the Tianhe District. So far, the only working link between the airport and the downtown area is the 28km, new airport expressway, which has three access ramps, of which two are completed.

There are concerns the new airport will stimulate hotel development in the Huadu area rather than closer to Guangzhou's city centre.

However, many hoteliers believe such development is a welcome change to a city that has been facing stagnation in the hotel sector.

Garden Hotel director of property management Emmanuel Lucio said: 'I think the new airport opens the door for more hotels, but more hotels mean more business.

'We are the ones to benefit the most because of easy accessibility.'

However, costs to transport clients to and from the new airport will also force hotels to stretch their resources further. Estimated travel time from the new airport to the downtown area is 40 minutes, but rush-hour delays could mean as much as an hour.

Guangdong International Hotel deputy general manager Tony Colella said: 'We have to be careful because of the distance. Customers now have to leave earlier to catch flights, and will travel a longer distance, which means more costs.'

The new airport is 17km further from the downtown area than the old airport.

This also means additional costs for international moving companies that found doing business at the old airport more convenient.

According to Santa Fe Relocations Services manager Benoit Morel, the national government recently amended customs regulations requiring clearance from specific customs offices, which are across the city, according to geographic location of a particular client. For example, a company relocating to a new facility in Huangpu must now apply for export permits through the customs office in Huangpu.

Before the new regulations took effect, moving and shipping companies could get all their air cargo cleared in one location at the airport.

'From the new airport, we'll have to make the customs clearance ourselves, so this will probably cost us more,' Mr Morel said.

'As a result we'll have to increase our charges.'

While logistics-associated costs are expected to increase for various industries that depend on the airport for business, most planners and business leaders are betting that the sheer volume of passengers and cargo flowing through the new airport will make up for increased marginal expenditure.

Within six years, airport officials expect total annual passenger throughput and cargo flow to reach 25 million and one million tonnes respectively.

With so many people and so mcuh cargo traffic ready for check-in at the new airport, the aim of making Guangzhou a major thoroughfare in the Pearl River Delta and a booming metropolis within the southern China region is attainable.

China Hotel general manager Rauf Malik said: 'I think with the new airport we'll have a real opportunity to develop the city's image.'

He said the new airport would complement future events in Guangzhou, such as the 2010 Asian Games.

The old airport had an annual passenger flow of 16 million. The new airport says it can handle 80 million passengers a year. Local business leaders are also confident the airport will stimulate the economy as travel to and from the city increases and the city has greater incentive for urban projects.