New maglev projects on track for launch next year

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New maglev projects in Beijing and central China’s Changsha City will begin operations next year, amid controversy among nearby residents and experts about disruptions and the practicality of the trains.

The Beijing S1, or the maglev pilot line, linking the urban and rural regions, will be complete next year. It will become the second Chinese city following Shanghai — the world’s first — to have a maglev line for commercial use.

The Beijing government initially planned to open two lines in the east and west of the city but was forced to cut this one after protests from the residents.

Meanwhile, the maglev line in Changsha, capital of the central province of Hunan, will stretch 18 kilometers and run between the city’s airport, downtown and the train station.

Speeds on these services have been cut to 100 kilometers per hour — a third of the speed of Shanghai’s maglev service to Pudong International Airport — in the wake of controversy.

The service in Hunan will use China’s first domestically developed maglev train that rolled off the production line in early 2012 in the province.

The three-carriage train is designed to carry 600 passengers.

The provincial government, Changsha City government, its airport authority and train manufacturer, Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co Ltd, will share the cost of some 4 billion yuan (US$645 million), according to Xinhua news agency.

Other Chinese cities are also planning or developing their maglev projects including the southern city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, Kunming in southwest Yunan and the popular tourist spot Zhangjiajie in Hunan.

“The medium and low-speed maglev service has lower noise as well as cost compared with the subway service,” said Chang Wensen, a professor with the National University of Defense Technology and a maglev expert.

But Wang Mengshu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the maglev is not practical.

“The service consumes huge amounts of electricity, along with radiation issues. That is the reason why Japan and Germany did not expand the service domestically,” Wang said.

Shanghai residents protested against a plan to expand the maglev route to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province in 2008 over concerns about radiation and noise in downtown.

Maglev is short for magnetic levitation.

Trains can attain high speeds because rather than ride on the rails with wheels, they hover centimeters above the track through the use of magnets.

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