BEIJING, China - Chinese authorities have approved the expansion of one of the country's airports, which is set to serve as a key hub in the Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road initiative.
On Monday, China's state planner approved the expansion of the Urumqi Airport, a project this is worth 42.1 billion yuan ($6.06 billion).
The Urumqi Airport, which is in the capital city of China's Xinjiang province, is expected to handle 63 million passengers and 750,000 tonnes of cargo a year after its expansion is complete.
According to a statement released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) construction of two additional runways at the airport, which is part of the expansion plans, is set to run through 2030.
Reports noted that the investment being made to expand the Urumqi Airport, is over half of what China is spending on Beijings new mega-airport project, the Daxing International Airport.
The Daxing project costs 80 billion yuan and will serve 72 million passengers a year by 2025.
The NDRC said in its statement that the Urumqi expansion is aimed at accommodating the rapid aviation growth in Xinjiang.
It added that the expansion is also expected to spur the growth of an international aviation hub in the city.
Currently, the Urumqi Airport already serves flights to and from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Further, the China Southern Airlines has set up a hub in Urumqi.
The Xinjiang Province, which is the biggest among Chinese provinces and autonomous regions by area, has an economy of 1 trillion yuan ($144 billion), which ranks among the smallest in the country.
However, considering that the oil and mineral-rich province is a key node in Jinping's multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road initiative, the country's central government has been pouring in huge funds to develop the infrastructure in the province.
Over the last few years, China has invested heavily to boost infrastructure construction across the region and is planning on building hundreds of airports across the country.
China's plans have been driven by rising business travel and tourism that is being fueled by a growing middle class in the country.