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Debate Continues over Proposed Maglev Train Route
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As rumors circulated last weekend about the suspension of the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev rail line, the media office of the Shanghai municipal government yesterday denied the project had been shelved.

However, it would not reveal any information about the timetable for construction, which has yet to start, or if it would be completed in time for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

If it is built, the line will stretch some 175 km and will carry trains running at speeds of up to 450 kph between the two cities.

An official surnamed Zhang from the Shanghai municipal reform and development commission yesterday told China Daily that they had not been informed about the suspension of the maglev project by their superior department.

"We know the National Development and Reform Commission approved a feasibility study on the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line in March last year, but that doesn't mean the project will definitely be built," the official said.

On Sunday, the Xinhua News Agency reported that the Shanghai government might shelve the construction of the line altogether, citing an unidentified official from Minhang District in Shanghai's southern suburbs, through which the line would likely pass.

The abandonment of the plan was partly attributed to the safety concerns of some local residents living close to the proposed route. They said they were afraid the maglev line will create a lot of noise and also generate radiation.

Environmental experts were quoted by the 21st Century Business Herald as saying that it was still difficult to determine the potential safety threats of the maglev train line.

It quoted Professor Yang Haizhen from the College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University, as saying that the academy had not yet acquired a comprehensive understanding of the safety issues.

"Since the first maglev line between Longyang Road and Pudong International Airport was completed, we have yet to carry out thorough research into the effects of radioactivity in the area," Yang said.

Another industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said the government will not shelve the maglev project merely because of the residents' opposition.

"First, I do not think the maglev line will create serious noise or radiation problems in the areas it passes through.

"Second, if the project is suspended, it will be more to do with technology issues than investment ones," the source said.

Xie Weida, a professor at the Institute of Railway & Urban Rail Transit at Tongji University, said China still lags a long way behind Germany in maglev-building technology.

"If the maglev line is to be built, the major portions of the train will have to be imported from Germany. So far, we can only handle the construction of the rail and the train's shell," he told China Daily.

(China Daily May 30, 2007)

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