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Fast Rail Likely to Link Cities
The type of railway linking the nation's capital with Shanghai in time for the Olympics is expected to be finalized soon, but it is not tipped to be a maglev system, according to local experts.

"A high-speed railway is more likely than a maglev (magnetic levitation) train because China has developed the low-cost railway technology with full independent property rights," said Sun Zhang, a professor at Shanghai-based Tongji University who took part in a feasibility study in 1995 to look at the best way to connect the cities.

Song Xiaojun, vice-general-manager of the Shanghai Maglev Development Company, confirmed the one his company has built will be the only maglev line in China for at least the next five years.

Although a top speed of 430 kilometers per hour for the maglev is tantalizing, a test of fast-speed railway between Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province and Shenyang in Liaoning Province has exceeded 300 kilometers per hour with higher reliability at a much lower cost.

Sun praised the Shanghai Maglev Demonstration Line for its speed and scientific inspiration, but said the maglev's cost effectiveness would diminish if it was only used over short distances.

"German parliament rejected the line from Berlin to Hamburg due to the difficulty in claiming the land and commercial operation concerns," Sun said.

"The Japanese Government said it would assist with its country's project only if the developers could cut the construction costs from 1.5 times that of other railways to 1.2 times."

The nationalization of maglev technology is time-consuming because the Germans will not give up their invaluable assets.

Although the tracks for the maglev project were produced locally, the core technology of the vehicles and the debugging of the system is being handled by the German side, Sun said.

"2020 will be the right time to build a Beijing-Shanghai maglev as the technology will be fully nationalized and there will be a larger passenger volume," Sun said.

German enterprises actively involved in the maglev project in Pudong New Area foresee an 8,000-kilometre national maglev network following the 30-kilometre-long local line.

Wu Xiangming, an official in charge of the construction of the maglev line in Shanghai, said the cost of the project is lower than metro lines and the cost of future projects will be slashed as the development company has spent 500 million yuan (US$60.5 million) completing a manufacturing base to make components locally.

Wu said different geographic features pose different questions for the cutting-edge technology, which only works on very level ground. More difficulties arise when tunnels or bridges are involved.

(China Daily January 25, 2003)

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