[photopress:shanghai_maglev.tower_horizontal.jpg,full,alignright]China has suspended the planned construction of a new high-speed magnetic levitation train route linking the eastern cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou. This is probably the most advanced transportation system in the world and is used in Germany. The reason it has been suspended is that there are said to be radiation concerns.
An official with the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress confirmed a major reason (and in that phrase lies the suggestion that there might be other reasons – for the suspension was the radiation concerns from residents living along the proposed route. He said, ‘The government is working on the issue.’
So what might the other issues be? Cost. It was approved by the central government in March 2006 and the budget was RMB35 billion ($4.5 billion). It was thought the budget conservative and it might over-run up to RMB40 billion.
The maglev project uses German technology which, in theory, let it run at a maximum speed of 450 km per hour. The track was due to be in operation by 2010, in time for the World Expo in Shanghai.
The planned maglev route was separated from some communities by a green belt only 22.5 meters wide, though a blueprint of the local government indicates a protection belt 150 meters wide would be built on either side. Still that is only half the 300-meter specifications applied in Germany.
The locals are plainly worried. The Minhang District government alone received more than 5,000 petitioners in a single day in March.
But the price may have been a major consideration. Wang Qingyun, an official in charge of transportation at National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said, ‘The project is still under study and its final design is subject to approval. It’s still hard to say whether the maglev would be built after all, but even if it would, it’s not possible to complete the project before 2010.’
The operational maglev route between Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road is having trouble making money. One estimate is that it will take a hundred years to break even.
So instead of maglev a conventional high-speed rail link could be used which would be almost as fast as the maglev but cost only half as much. A trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou by high-speed train would take 35 minutes, only seven minutes longer than the maglev ride.
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