China's capital city puts its first maglev traffic line into test run
Photo: Visual China

Beijing's first maglev train line has been put into test run at the beginning of the new year. According to Chinese media reports, the 10.2-kilometer line would help residents in Beijing's western suburbs commute to the city proper within a dozen minutes, while technical experts confirmed the floating train is free of noise and electromagnetic pollution for both passengers and those who live by its track.

S1 is the first medium and low-speed maglev traffic line in Beijing with 8 stations connecting the western suburban city with the urban area. Now it takes 16 minutes and 4 yuan to go through its seven stations, according to the China Environment News, a media under the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The China Environment News learned the maximum speed for medium and low maglev traffic could scale to 160 kilometers per hour, while the designated speed for S1 is 100 kilometers per hour. And, the train actually runs at 80 kilometers per hour. According to a resident surnamed Liu who lives in the western suburbs, it used to take him over an hour to get to the city proper, but now he just needs a dozen minutes.

Maglev train is known to be better equipped for short turns and quick ascend, while passengers can enjoy more cozy and smooth travel, compared with subway or bus. At some points of the S1 route, the rail is laid only dozens of meters away from residential buildings, and at some other sites, there are ramp or crooked pathways. People may be reminiscent of science fiction blockbusters watching the train traversing readily through urban city's forest of skyscrapers.

“Turn radius for maglev train could be 75 meters while for subway train, the smallest turn radius is about 200 meters. So, the routes and stations could be more flexibly set for maglev trains to pass through high-rise buildings or residential communities,” said a staff worker of S1.

According to passengers surveyed by the China Environment News, the train runs quietly and smoothly. Portable tester indicated the noise inside compartments to be about 55-65 db. Based on monitoring data of the Beijing Maglev Technology Holding Company — the constructor of S1, a subsidiary of a state-owned group company funded by the government of Beijing Municipality—the noise measured 10 meters away from its rail is about 70 db, much lower than that made by subway trains.

Sun Jiliang, chief engineer of Beijing Maglev Technology Holding, implied that with the intensity of electromagnetic radiation kept well below the international standards, the train would not affect human health. “The train is floated by electromagnetic force although rail and electromagnet would form a closed magnetic circuit, stemming outflow of radiation,” he said.

The path for the Chinese capital city to run its own maglev line has been bumpy. Back in 1999, Beijing Enterprises Group Company Limited which is owned by the Beijing municipal government had started to design plans for constructing a maglev tourist line in Badaling, one of the most popular Great Wall sections about 80 kilometers northwest of urban Beijing. And the Beijing Maglev Technology Holding Company was founded as a subsidiary for the purpose.

However, the Badaling project got stranded later for some unidentified reasons, while the Beijing Maglev Technology Holding Company continued to do research and development work on the medium and low-speed maglev traffic system, cooperating with the National University of Defense Technology.

By February 2011 when the S1 project was initiated, the development of the capital city's maglev traffic once again gained momentum despite surging concerns among common citizens about radiation. S1 was expected to become the first medium and low-speed maglev line in China and the second one in the world. However, challenging demolition work along its pathway finally got all things delayed. In 2016, the first medium and low-speed maglev line was put into operation in south China's Changsha city.

Some prominent scientists openly objected to the technology's application, citing radiation concerns. In a 2007 interview, Wang Mengshu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering pointed out that the maglev train would inflict damage on human health. “The magnetic field created by the trains would disturb the magnetic field in human body. You could take it for less than 10 minutes, otherwise you'll feel uncomfortable. Electromagnetic radiation would disturb your internal clock and lead to neurological dysfunction.”

In 2003, Shanghai imported German technology to construct the first domestic high-speed maglev train. Some 14 years later, it remains the only high-speed one in commercial use in the whole world.


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