High cost and technology concerns put off the State Council The proposed Beijing-to-Shanghai magnetic-levitation (maglev) railway was killed by enormous costs and technology worries, it was revealed yesterday. It would have required at least 400 billion yuan to build the 1,300km route - more than double the cost of rival bids for high-speed conventional wheeled trains from the German ICE, the French TGV and the Japanese Shinkansen operators, and several times the cost of upgrading Chinese trains. The second concern of the State Council - which rejected maglev at its January 7 meeting - was that the technology is untested, apart from a 30km stretch between Shanghai airport and the city's Pudong district which was to be the model for the Beijing-Shanghai line. Thirdly, the council was worried that the system's inventors, Transrapid International - a joint venture between the Siemens and Thyssen/Krupp companies of Germany - would be unwilling to transfer all the core technology of the system. Li Guangpin , spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, said the council had not made a final decision and had left its options open. He said beginning in April the ministry would increase the average speed of its existing trains on the route from 120km/h to 160km/h. But sources said the proposed maglev railway was definitely out of the running and the contest was now between ICE, TGV and the option of using Chinese technology with foreign help. Shinkansen is an outsider because of China's historical enmity towards Japan, widespread public opposition to Japanese involvement and the fact that the line passes through Nanjing, the site of the 1937 massacre by Japanese soldiers. Where does that leave the maglev, the world's fastest train with a maximum speed of 430km/h? There are currently no plans to use it on a commercial line, even in Germany, where existing high-speed trains are already too fast to make the maglev commercially viable. Many people there do not want the concrete structure on which it runs to be built near their homes, for fear the trains might emit harmful electromagnetic radiation. Transrapid International was delighted in January 2001 when it signed a contract with Shanghai to build the 30km stretch. It went into test operation on December 31, 2002, with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and then-premier Zhu Rongji aboard. The project cost US$1.2 billion, with loans from seven Chinese state companies, and the German side providing the technology. Daily services began on December 29. But a one-way ticket costs 75 yuan and takes passengers only to Longyang Road, a suburb from where they must take a subway, bus or taxi. So far, only about 1,000 tickets a day have been sold out of a capacity of 12,000. For Transrapid, the Pudong line was meant to be an advertisement for the world's fastest train.