Magnetic levitation train built by ROTEM
By Cho Jin-seo
Korea's first commercial magnetic train line will be built at the Incheon International Airport complex by 2012, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation said Tuesday.
The magnetic levitation train, or Maglev, will run afloat on a 6.1-kilometer track that will link the airport and Yongyu business and tourism district, at a maximum speed of 110 kilometers per hour.
The construction will begin in 2009 and test runs will kick off in 2012, before the line is handed over to the city government for commercial operation. If the first-phase operation proves to be a success, the line will then be extended to a 37.4-kilometer lap around the reclaimed island, according to the blueprint drawn by Incheon city government.
``The construction of the magnetic levitation train line means that South Korea will develop eco-friendly, high-tech means of transportation with its own technology and own capital. We will also be able to export the technology,'' the ministry said in a statement.
Maglev trains use electromagnetic force to float a few inches above the ground. As there is no physical friction except air resistance, they can achieve high speeds without creating as much noise and vibration as traditional wheeled transportation does.
Currently, China's Shanghai and Japan's Aichi prefecture are operating commercial magnetic lines.
Shanghai Maglev runs at a maximum speed of 430 kilometers per hour on a 30-kilometer track between Pudong International Airport and Shanghai city center. Aichi operates a slower, urban-type Maglev that covers 8.9 kilometers at a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour.
Incheon was selected in a four-way bid with Daegu, Gwangju and Daejeon. The planned construction cost for the 6.1-kilometer line is 414 billion won. The central government will shoulder about 60 percent of the budget, while Incheon City and the Incheon International Airport Corp., will pay the rest.
Korea's ROTEM has been developing and testing the train at a test track located in Daejeon since 1997. The ministry said the magnetic train line could be more cost-efficient than conventional lines since there is less wear and tear of wheels and railroads. And the lower noise level means that it would be an optimal transport for highly populated areas, it said.
Many countries, including Germany, Britain and Japan, have been developing the technology for decades but economic and political barriers have hindered the technology's commercialization in most cases.
Safety has also remained as a concern, though Maglevs, in theory, are believed to be safer than conventional trains. Last September, 23 people died when a magnetic train crashed while it was going at nearly 200 kilometers per hour at a test track in Germany. But the train's operator said the accident had been caused by human error, not by a technical glitch.
China is so far the most active nation in adopting magnetic train lines. It is to extend the German-built line between Pudong Airport and the city of Shanghai initially by some 35 kilometers to Hong Qiao Airport before 2010 and in an additional phase by 200 kilometers to the city of Hangzhou.