World's First Commercial Maglev Line Debuts in Shanghai
Published on Tuesday, December 31, 2002 by the Peoples Daily (China)
World's First Commercial Maglev Line Debuts in Shanghai

The traditional, long-aspired dream of Chinese philosophers to be able to "run with the wind" became a reality in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Shanghai residents watch as the world's first passenger Transrapid Maglev high speed train leaves a station in Shanghai, China December 31, 2002. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji on New Year's Eve inaugurated the German-made railway system which uses magnets to propel it at speeds of up to 430 kph (270 mph). The train will run on a 66 km (40 mile) S-shaped link between Shanghai and its new international airport. REUTERS/China Photo
The Shanghai Transrapid Maglev Line made its inaugural "VIP" test run in this rising modern metropolis in east China with Premier Zhu Rongji and his German counterpart, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on board.

The 10-billion-yuan (1.2-billion-US-dollar) project is the first-ever magnetic levitation (maglev) system for commercial use in the world.

Two and half years ago, the revolutionary project was just "a vague illusion", as Chancellor Schroeder put it.

On Tuesday, however, he and Premier Zhu stood atop the surreal platform and cut the red ribbon at Longyang Road Station.

At 10:10 am, the inaugural "flight" "sped off", quickly disappearing into the morning mist. Inside the shining streamliner,passengers applauded the smooth and forceful take-off and then shifted their attention to an electronic screen indicating the train's speed.

After about 3 minutes, the speed had reached up to 430 kilometers per hour, or 119 meters per second, its maximum speed. And enthusiastic applause and cheers echoed throughout the train.

"It is a major event in the history of Shanghai's urban construction, as well as in the history of China's railroad transportation," Zhu said, emerging from the train in downtown Shanghai after his trip to the new Pudong International Airport 30kilometers away. Each one-way journey took less than eight minutes.

Premier Zhu described it as "a miracle" for Shanghai to have completed such a hi-tech project in such a short span of time. It took German and Chinese scientists, engineers and a dozen firms just two and a half years to complete the project, which remains in pilot operation in Germany and Japan.

"The new line will accelerate Shanghai's drive to turn itself into a modern metropolis and serve as an impetus for the development of related technologies and industries in China," Zhu said.

Transrapid Maglev
The world's first passenger Transrapid Maglev high speed train carrying German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji arrives at a station in Shanghai, Dec. 31, 2002. Schroeder and Zhu inaugurated the German-made railway system which uses magnets to propel it at speeds of up to 270 mph. Photo by Stringer/China/Reuters
He also called on Chinese and German scientists "to keep improving the system and to further explore ways to enable domestic maglev equipment production in order to make it more economical and competitive."

Meanwhile, Premier Zhu did not neglect the security aspect, one of the major concerns of would-be passengers. "Passengers do not even need to buy an insurance policy," he said.

German Chancellor Schroeder said that he hadn't expected his home-grown technology to be applied so quickly. He had initially visited Shanghai in 1999 to discuss the project. He said that Germany is keen to develop economic and high-tech cooperation with China.

"We are not only seeking to sell our products here, but are also willing to turn our technologies into products in China, something which is fair to both countries," the German chancellor said.

The maglev system, noted Premier Zhu, is characterized by high capacity, fast speed, low energy consumption, safety performance and minimal environmental effects, and "it has wide prospects for development with a great potential to benefit China both economically and socially."

The Transrapid, with its "synchronous longstator linear motor", literally floats above the maglev guideway and is propelled forward by powerful electromagnetic forces along the specially-built guideway, said Wu Xiangming, head engineer in charge of the project, adding that it is also impossible to derail.

Engineers have assured that the effect of the magnetic force of the maglev system on passengers and nearby areas is minimal, since the effect on humans is thus less than that of most electric household appliances.

Gerhard Wahl, chief coordinator of the German side, said that, although the maglev technologies were developed in Germany, the first commercial line was built in China, which places China at the forefront of the maglev technologies. "It proves once again that the Chinese leadership is truly visionary," he noted.

Tuesday was a joyous day of ceremonies and celebrations for Shanghai, a day filled with bands playing loud music, colorful banners and grand parties.

Shanghai Mayor Chen Liangyu referred the maglev line "to be a major contribution to the modernization of Shanghai."

Local residents throughout the city were seething with enthusiasm on this grand occasion Tuesday.

A middle-aged flower peddler Liu Weimin near the rail station said he is not only curious about the high-tech devices, but also great fortune the maglev line will bring to him. "Nearby apartments are more expansive today," he said.

Copyright by People's Daily Online