Construction starts on Beijing's maglev line

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A maglev line using Chinese technology was brought under construction in Beijing on Monday, despite objections from residents living along the line.

The new low-to-medium speed S1 Line is the first of its kind in the country, making China the second nation in the world to have such a line, said Chang Wensen, chief project manager of the line.

The project shows China has the capability to engineer and use low-to-medium speed maglev technology, said Chang, who is also a professor at the National University of Defense Technology and leads a research team that developed the technology.

As one of the eight lines brought under construction on Monday in Beijing to form an urban transit network and help ease traffic gridlock, the S1 Line will extend from Mentougou to Pingguoyuan.

The construction of the line is expected to cost around 6 billion yuan (US$910 million) and wrap up in 2013, earlier reports said.

The construction of the project was first slated to begin in the middle of last year, but was postponed several times because residents living near the proposed route worried about radiation exposure.

The worries surfaced in May when the draft plan was released. It was reported earlier that more than 300 residents living in the Bisenli community and nearby communities in Mentougou district signed a petition opposing the proposed line.

Qi Fansan and other residents in the Bisenli community, which the S1 Line will pass by some 20 meters away, are concerned about the radiation problem, even though tests indicated it will be safe.

Qi, a senior engineer with the Beijing National Railway Research and Design Institute of Signal and Communication, said he had doubts on the testing standards, which are different from European standards. "The radiation will be there, no matter how small they said it is, and its negative impact may show in one or two decades," he said.

Chang said the maglev line will not harm people living near the tracks or the environment, because earlier experiments showed the lower speed maglev train emits almost no radiation.

An expert in radiation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who tested the radiation of the S1 Line and asked to be anonymous, said that the testing standards the institute used are the same as the international ones, and the line will not cause problems such as radiation exposure.

Besides concerns over radiation, the power consumption of the maglev line is another problem facing Chang's research team.

Chang said the maglev line will consume more power than subways or light rail, though it produces less noise and needs less maintenance.

"We are now studying the power supply of the maglev, and I think we will solve this problem within three years," said Chang.

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