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Shanghai maglev line assessment report under dispute
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Controversy over the construction of the Shanghai-Hangzhou magnetic levitation (maglev) train line is continuing following the release of a report that says the rail link will have minimal impact on the local environment.

In a website announcement on Friday, the Shanghai government thanked those who had read the environmental assessment report released at the start of the year. It promised to invite experts to research the public opinions, and open a hearing at a later time.

Residents living along the line complained the report didn't provide a convincing solution to the environmental problems of noise and radiation that were raised a year earlier.

The report, compiled by the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences, focuses on the 31.8-km Shanghai section of the line connecting Longyang Road with Hongqiao, home to the city's second international airport.

The project was suspended in May due to fierce opposition from those living near the railway over radiation fears, particularly as the track would be separated from communities along the route by a greenbelt measuring only 22.5 meters wide.

The new report, published on the Shanghai Environment Online website, which is co-hosted by State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, said the greenbelt buffer zone would remain 22.5 meters wide even.

The website is the only access for the public to get the low-profile report that was intended to solicit public opinion until Jan. 15.

Residents living along the line suggested the report should be open to the public until March 5, and biological, long-term safety statistics should be included in the findings. They also requested a hearing.

Zhu Dan, a Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau official, said the bureau was still busy collecting public opinion.

In the report, the maximum speed along the Shanghai section of the route will be limited to 200 kilometers per hour, less than half of the 450 km per hour planned for the remainder of the line to Hangzhou.

The report said the maglev line would not affect water and air quality, and noise pollution could be controlled.

The 35 billion yuan (4.5 billion U.S. dollars) Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev project using German technology, is designed to cover the 175 km between Shanghai and Hangzhou.

If completed, it will be the world's second commercial high-speed maglev track. Shanghai operates the world's only commercial maglev system on a 30-km stretch between Shanghai's business district and Pudong airport.

(Xinhua News Agency January 19, 2008)

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