The decision by the city government to extend an existing subway line to Pudong airport sounds the death knell for the world's fastest train, the maglev - and confirms the suspicions of many people that it was a white elephant, done for political reasons. Earlier this month, the urban planning bureau announced that it would add 29.2km to the east end of the city's second line to connect the airport to the existing system. Since this extension will be above ground, the cost will be modest. When it is completed, passengers will be able to pay less than 10 yuan and ride from the airport to the city centre. If they take the maglev, they pay 50 yuan for an eight-minute, 30km ride to a metro station, where they switch to the subway, bus or taxi - and pay up to another 50 yuan. Because of the high price and inconvenience, the maglev trains are running at 30 per cent capacity, with many passengers taking the ride just once for the thrill of being on the world's fastest train, at 430km/h, for about a minute. Many people believe that the Shanghai government never wanted the maglev in the first place. 'The central government heard that Germany was about to sell submarines to Taiwan and decided to take pre-emptive action,' said one diplomat. 'It offered Shanghai as a site for the first commercial use of the maglev on condition that Germany refused the sale. It agreed. The deal was done over the heads of the Shanghai government.' China then spent nearly US$1 billion to build the track, and the first train ran on December 31, 2002, with then premier Zhu Rongji and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on board, leading some to christen the train 'Zhu's folly'. Pudong airport, too, has become the object of intense attention since a passageway collapsed in a terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on May 23. Both were designed by Frenchman Paul Andreu, who is also the architect of the National Theatre in Beijing. Mr Andreu is a controversial figure in China, where many architects believe that his design should not have been chosen for the National Theatre, saying that its ultra-modern glass and titanium design is inappropriate for a location close to the Forbidden City, and that the selection process was flawed due to excess lobbying by the French government. 'Sir Norman Foster should have won the design for Pudong airport, but Shanghai chose that of Andreu instead, over-ruling the decision of the jurors,' said one Beijing architect. 'Foster complained about the selection process and was awarded the right to do the new international terminal at Beijing airport as compensation.' Work began there at the end of March.