Wang Zhigang is head of the planning and construction department of Xiongan New Area’s management committee. He points to convenience and proximity to regional centers as primary reasons for the choice of location.
Currently, a bullet train that links Tianjin and Baoding, in Hebei Province, passes through Xiongan with a stop at Baiyangdian, around 10km away. The region also has a comprehensive traffic network of expressways, national highways and provincial arterial roads.
“The proximity to Beijing, Tianjin and Baoding as well as the new Beijing airport, which is only 55km away, has made Xiongan a crucial area within the transport network of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region,” Wang told NewsChina.
Despite this, he said there was still a long way to go before Xiongan could become a new national area. Currently, only two trains per day link Xiongan with Beijing, and covering the distance by road takes from one and a half to two hours.
The first step will be to construct a high-speed railway station in Xiongan, said Xu Kuangdi, director of a council of experts for coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, during a forum in June 2017. On completion, it will take 41 minutes to travel from Xiongan to Beijing.
Liu Binglian, head of the College of Economic and Social Development at Nankai University in Tianjin and vice chairman of the China Society of Logistics, said the central government’s thinking behind Xiongan went further than simply phasing out some of the non-capital functions of Beijing. He told our reporter that there are six main city clusters in the world, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region will strive to become the seventh, with Beijing at the core, but with Xiongan playing a key strategic role.
“Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei are three administrative regions which are loosely connected. Xiongan New Area will connect the entire region more effectively,” Liu said. “The development of Xiongan is a crucial step in building a world-class city cluster which will drive economic growth in northern China and play the role of a new transport hub within the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.”
Planners will aim to install a system that allows travel between Xiongan and the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang within half an hour, he said. To achieve that, a strong rail transit network was the obvious choice.
In the Transportation Integration Outline of the Coordinated Development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei released in 2015, eight key tasks were proposed, including constructing an efficient rail transit network comprised of arterial railways, inter-city railways and an urban railway system.
In the opinion of Li Guoping, head of Peking University’s Beijing Development Institute, careful planning is crucial before a concrete layout of Xiongan’s transport system is made, and policymakers must take into consideration the region’s population
“A city with a population of one million needs a totally different transportation system from a city of five million or 10 million,” Li told NewsChina. Xiongan should grow carefully to prevent a population explosion, he said, and should aim to have about two million residents by 2030. Building a city of more than 10 million was both unrealistic and unnecessary, he said.
Policymakers should also be clear about the new area’s scale, positioning, role and target population before designing the transport system to ensure it is efficient and low-cost.