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High-speed rail links approved

A high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai and a maglev line between Shanghai and neighbouring Hangzhou have been approved by the State Council, China's cabinet. The Beijing-Shanghai railway will "use high speed wheel track technology," the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) the country's top planner said on its website yesterday.

A limited company will be established, which will be responsible for building and operating the 1,320-kilometre line; and private and foreign investments are welcome, the statement said. However, there were no other information on the Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev line. The feasibility studies for both projects are not complete so details such as when they will be started are not known. The approval for the Beijing-Shanghai railway comes nine years after the Ministry of Railways submitted the proposal in 1997.

Though it was widely acknowledged that the project would significantly boost transport capacity and economic development, the debate over which technology should be used to build the rail delayed the project. Now, the NDRC statement said, various parties have finally reached a consensus on significant issues including the technology solution. "The time is ripe for construction."

Designed for speeds of 300 kilometres per hour, with the maximum at 350 kilometres per hour, the railway is expected to shorten travel time between the two cities from 13 hours to less than 5. Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun told China Daily last week that the 200-billion-yuan (US$24.7 billion) project would be fully based on "our own technology."

The maglev line between Shanghai and Hangzhou has also been under study for nearly a decade. The construction of the rail is expected to start at the end of the year, said Sheng Changli, vice-governor of Zhejiang Province March 5. The new line costs 35 billion yuan (US$4.3 billion), and is expected to shorten travel time between the two cities to less than half an hour from up to 3 hours. It is expected to go into operation before the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, Xinhua News Agency reported. The Shanghai-Hangzhou railway will in part use German technology, but the main technology comes from Chinese engineers, sources said.

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