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Beijing-Shanghai Rail Project Bidding War

With a 20-billion-dollar project as the prize, bidding on the Beijing-Shanghai express railway project has become a major battle. Japan's Transport Minister Chikage Ogi has left Beijing after meeting with China's Railway Ministry officials on Tuesday. No one can say which of the three bidders -- Japan, Germany and France -- will take the prize. The only thing certain is that the war goes on.

Things are getting hotter than ever in the battle for China's Beijing-Shanghai express railway. Ten days after French Trade Minister Francois Loos's visit to the Chinese capital, it was the turn of Japanese Transport Minister Chikage Ogi to meet with China's railway officials.

Japan is lobbying China to use its Shinkansen bullet train technology in the 1,300-kilometer express railway linking its capital Beijing and financial center Shanghai. Minister Ogi says the Japanese Railway Group is actively promoting the technology with Chinese railway and local officials.

But Japan is facing serious challenges from Germany and France. France is pitching its TGV high-speed transport system, while Germany is pushing its magnetic levitation train technology, or maglev.

China is already conducting maglev trials on a 30-kilometer section in Shanghai, but the technology is said to cost three times as much as the other two options.

China plans to complete the Beijing-Shanghai railway system by 2008 in time for the Beijing Olympics. Construction is expected to start later this year, after international bidding in the autumn.

Once completed, the express railway will shorten travel time between the cities from 13 hours to under five.

Besides financial considerations, the final decision could be influenced by public sentiment. In just 10 days, more than 100,000 Chinese have signed up on the Internet to petition against awarding the bid to Japan. Railway Ministry officials have declined to offer details of their talks with Japanese transport officials, saying the issue has now become more sensitive than ever.

(CCTV.com August 7, 2003)

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