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Railway or Magnetic Levitation, Still Unknown
The Ministry of Railways denied reports yesterday that the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway project will use rail-based technology rather than the magnetic-levitation system, insisting that the issue remains under discussion.

International Business, a Beijing-based business daily, reported earlier this week that the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway project will use tried and tested rail technology.

There is still no commercially successful magnetic levitation operation anywhere in the world.

The newspaper said experts and railway officials supported building the railway with rail-based technology, and had submitted a feasibility report to the State Council.

"Any speculation about what kinds of technologies our ministry will use in building the high-speed railway is groundless. Even we still have no ideas on it," said one official with the publicity department of the ministry who refused to be named.

She said many ministry-level departments were involved in the big-budget project, so the railway ministry is probably not in the position to announce the final decision.

The office in charge of high-speed railway development under the ministry also refused to make any comments on the issue. One official even said they are just responsible for implementing final decisions, not the decision-maker.

The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway project was first proposed in 1997, and was later listed in China's 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05).

The total investment of the project is expected to reach US$12 billion.

Experts have long been divided on what kind of technology to use on the project.

Supporters of magnetic-levitation said the technology is environmentally friendly and running trains faster. Magnetic-levitation trains produce little noise and can run at nearly 500 kilometers an hour.

Advocates of rail technology insist it is safe, has a good track record and could save on construction costs.

They argued that constructing magnetic-levitation lines costs 1.5 to 3 times that of building a rail line. Rail-based high-speed train also runs fast, possibly running at 300 kilometers an hour.

(China Daily July 11, 2003)

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