[photopress:maglev.jpg,full,alignright]Shanghai spent $1.25 billion building the world’s fastest train to the city’s Pudong International Airport. The train far is RMB50 ($6.60) which is too expensive for many Shanghainese. The magnetic-levitation, or maglev, line terminates in Pudong’s suburbs, 12 kilometers from downtown, meaning most travelers must get other transportation to reach their final destinations.
Shanghai authorities have put on hold plans to spend $5.3 billion extending the 30 kilometer (19 mile) line — the world’s only commercial maglev train.
The reason is that use has been less than a quarter that was projected. At the same time there have been concerns about radiation and construction costs twice those of other high-speed trains.
Gerd Aberle, a professor of transport economics at Giessen University in Germany says that this could possibly force Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG, the maglev’s developers, to scrap the technology and write off at least $2 billion in costs.
He said, ‘It’s the last chance to convince the rest of the world that the maglev is an interesting system. If it’s not realized in China, that may be the end.’
Aberle headed an advisory committee that rejected plans for Germany’s first maglev line, from Berlin to Hamburg, in 2000.
Unlike traditional trains, maglev models lack wheels and rails. They hover about a centimeter above their tracks, held and propelled by electromagnetic forces. The first commercial maglev line opened in 1984 and covered 600 meters from the U.K.’s Birmingham International Airport to a railway station. It closed in 1995 after becoming unreliable. ine maglev lines are under consideration in the U.S., including projects in California, Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Maglev is the future of train travel, says Sun Zhang, a professor of engineering at Shanghai’s Tongji University and a member of the maglev planning committee.
The Shanghai government sort of plans to extend its line 200 kilometers through the city center to Hangzhou, including a 35 kilometer detour to the domestic airport.
Authorities now are assessing environmental and health impacts, says Jiao Yang, a Shanghai government spokeswoman. dhe said the extension, approved by the central government last year, hasn’t been shelved. These are not encouraging words.
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