Japan to Join Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Rail Bid

Japan is ready to co-operate with China in developing Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railways, but it's still up to China to decide which parties it wants to work with, said Ogi Chikage, Japanese minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Tuesday in Beijing.

"It's just like a marriage. If a man does not propose to his girl, what can the girl say about the marriage,'' Ogi said.

The possibility of building the 1,300-kilometre-long Beijing-Shanghai link with the Magnetic-levitation technology, considered commercially immature, is fading. But Japan's Shinkansen, France's TGV and Inter-City-Express from Germany are still competing for the multi-billion yuan project.

They all claim to be able to safely operate trains on the rail link at about 300 kilometres an hour.

Ogi showed strong confidence in Japan's high-speed railway technology at the news briefing on her trip to China.

"Our Shinkansen has successfully operated for 40 years carrying more than seven billion passengers. It's safe, environment-friendly and reliable,'' she said.

The Shinkansen was first built along the coast of Japan, which, she believes, provides a useful reference for the Beijing-Shanghai railway which will follow similar terrain.

Given the advantages, she said, China's railway administrators have every reason to think about importing the technology.

The Shinkansen was developed in 1960 to serve visitors to the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, and was finished on time.

If the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway adopted the Japanese technology, Ogi said she was confident the project could also be finished within three or four years, and serve the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.

China's Ministry of Railways did not comment on the issue, just saying it is still under discussion.

Chinese vice-minister of railways Wang Zhaocheng had a formal discussion with Ogi Tuesday morning, but no details of the talks have been released.

"Any speculation about what kinds of technologies our ministry will use to build the high-speed railway is groundless. Even we still have no ideas about it,'' said one official with the ministry's publicity department who refused to be named.

She said many ministry-level departments were involved in the big-budget project, so the railway ministry is probably not in a position to announce a final decision.

The office in charge of high-speed railway development under the ministry also refused to comment on the issue. One official even said it is just responsible for implementing final decisions, and is not the decision-maker.

The Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Project was first proposed in 1997, and was later listed in China's tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005).

A former railway minister had said construction work on the project would start no later than 2005 no matter what technology was adopted.

International Business, a Beijing-based business daily, quoted some industry sources earlier as saying that the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway project will use rail technology because of the relatively untested nature of magnetic-levitation.

There is still no commercially successful magnetic levitation operation anywhere in the world.

The newspaper said experts and railway officials supported building the railway with rail-based technology, and had submitted a feasibility report to the State Council.



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