China may abandon the construction of the 4-billion-euro Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed maglev line if talks with Germany on technical transfers and other issues fail, the 21st Century Business Herald said yesterday.
"The line will not be built if they keep saying no," Wu Xiangming, director of the China national magnetic levitation transportation technology research center, was quoted as saying in Germany.
Wu is believed to be a key figure involved in bilateral talks on the building of the 200-km-long maglev track, which will be designed to allow a maximum speed of 450 km per hour.
The Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line will be the world's second commercial high-speed maglev track. Shanghai operates the world's only commercial maglev system on a 30-km run between Shanghai's financial district and its Pudong airport.
The report quoted a well-informed expert from the Shanghai-based Tongji University as saying that Germany wants China to build the maglev line with technologies bought from German firms.
China has rejected this model since the German price is too high, the unidentified expert said.
China favors a plan in which the two sides will set up a joint venture, which will produce most of the equipment and spare parts for the maglev line, the expert said.
China's contribution to maglev technology
Speaking in May at the fourth Sino-German hi-tech dialog forum in Beijing, Wu Xiangming reminded the German side of China's contribution to the growth of maglev technology.
Although German firms have spent huge money on the research of the technology, it was China that spent over 1 billion euros building the short Shanghai maglev line, which brought the technology out of the laboratory and into daily use, he said.
All technical data gathered during the operation of the Shanghai maglev line has been shared between the two sides, a model that will also apply to the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line, he said.
"If one says Germany gave birth to the technology, it should be accepted that China provided the fertile soil for it to grow strong and sturdy," he said.
Wu further noted that the success of the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line will have a tremendous impact on the promotion of the German maglev technology in the world.
No timetable for the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line
China's central government approved the building of the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev track in March.
It is generally believed that the line would be operating by 2010, when Shanghai plays host to the World Expo. Such a tight timetable certainly gives the German side an advantage in the talks.
Chai Xianlong, an official with the Zhejiang provincial institute of development planning, acknowledges, however, that the State Council has only approved a feasibility study of the line.
The study may conclude that the line is not feasible, he said.
Both Chai and the Tongji expert confirmed that a deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission has said that the line needn't have to be completed before the World Expo.
Germany may have much to lose
Chai said delaying the deal is not necessarily good for the German investors.
He said maglev technology may prove not so difficult to master, pointing out that there are several Chinese firms in Zhejiang alone that are building experimental maglev lines.
Several other Chinese cities are also building or planning their own maglev lines.
Chai said that there are two alternatives to the proposed Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line. One is using a high-speed railway system, which would add only four minutes to the 28-minute trip by a maglev train. And the other alternative is to use lower-speed maglev technologies developed by China.
(Xinhua News Agency June 10, 2006)