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Beijing Authorities Scotch Maglev Rumors
Beijing authorities have scotched rumors that two magnetic levitation (maglev) railways will be built this year.

Speculation had mounted that the capital would follow the example of Shanghai, which put the world's first commercial maglev train into operation in January.

A Shanghai-based newspaper reported earlier this month that Beijing is expected to begin the construction of a 26-kilometer maglev railway connecting the Beijing Capital International Airport with Dongzhimen, as well as a 2.2-kilometer line in Badaling.

"In fact, we have not approved any maglev line project and the would-be projects are still being discussed," said an official with the Beijing Municipal Development Planning Commission, who asked not to be named.

Sources with the Beijing Municipal Development Planning Commission said an investment of 5.5 billion yuan (US$664 million) would pay for a railway from Dongzhimen to the airport, with completion expected before 2008.

"But it has not been decided whether to adopt a maglev railway or a common urban railway," said the official.

Maglev railways have been hotly discussed recently, especially after the first line was unveiled in Shanghai.

Officials are considering whether the technology can be introduced to connect Beijing and Tianjin, Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Beijing and Guangzhou.

In another development, Beijing will soon have a second expressway linking the capital airport to the city center, according to sources with Beijing Capital Highway Development Co Ltd.

The Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday that the project is seeking approval, with work slated to begin on May 1 ahead of a completion date by December.

Increasing numbers of people are choosing air flights as their major means of travel, making the current airport expressway one of the busiest in the country.

Statistics reveal the capital airport handled 18.6 million people in 1999. This figure jumped to 21.69 million in 2000 and 24 million in 2001.

As a result, the number of vehicles using the expressway is increasing fast.

An average 55,000 vehicles used the expressway each day in 2000 -- double the number nine years ago when the road was completed. In the following two years, the number increased at a rate of at least 20 percent, reaching 70,000 and 80,000 respectively. But the current airport expressway was designed on estimates of 60,000 vehicles using it per day.

Although airport expressway authorities have taken measures to speed up fee collection, vehicle queues waiting ahead of the fee collecting windows have not fallen.

The newly planned airport expressway will be around 20 kilometers long, starting from Lutuan on the Beijing-Chengde expressway and end at the northern gate of the Capital Airport.

(China Daily February 14, 2003)

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