Operators and experts dismissed fresh public concerns over the environmental impact of magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, such as radiation and noise, following demonstrations against the technology in several cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
The State-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) will start research and development of a maglev train that can travel at 600 kilometers per hour, according to a statement CRRC posted on its website on October 24.
The statement generated heated discussions online with many netizens wondering if it was necessary to build "cash-burning" and "disturbingly noisy" maglev trains that produce "harmful electromagnetic radiation," after the country has already achieved great success in high-speed rail, the People's Daily reported on Monday.
The maglev train projects have long been questioned in China. People from more than 300 households in Beijing have signed a petition opposing the proposed Mentougou subway line featuring maglev trains, citing potential health risks, Xinhua reported in 2010. But the project will be put into trial operation this year.
In response to the public criticism, Xie Hailin, general manager of China Railway Maglev Transportation Investment and Construction - whose parent company built the Changsha Maglev Express - said that medium- and low-speed maglev train systems, such as the Changsha Maglev Express, actually consume less energy than other trains as they can retain momentum without being pulled, according to the People's Daily report.
Also, maglev trains generate around 60 decibels of noise, less than subway trains which have an operating noise of 80 decibels on average, said the report, adding that the noise can be further reduced if the electronic devices on board are optimized.
As for health concerns over electromagnetic radiation, Xie presented the results of tests on the Changsha Maglev Express, based on the security criteria used for subways, which showed the radiation generated by the train when tested from a distance of 1 meter is less than that of a domestic induction cooker; and the radiation is less than that of a cell phone if tested from a distance of 5 meters.
Maglev technology has always been the focus of transnational research and represents the strategic high ground in the highly-competitive emerging industry, Chen Dayong, general manager with CRRC's international business department, was quoted as saying by the People's Daily.
In addition to the application in transportation, the maglev technology has a great potential for use in many other fields as a core technology, for example national defense, Wu Mengling, a professor of railway construction at Shanghai-based Tongji University, told the Global Times.