Shanghai maglev extension not on 2008 start list

BEIJING, March 6 (Reuters) - A controversial extension of Shanghai's high-speed "maglev" train is not on a list of projects to be launched this year, Han Zheng, the mayor of China's financial hub, said on Thursday.

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Shanghai in January to protest against the plan, fearing the magnetic levitation train could emit radiation and bring down the value of their homes.

Han said the city government would invite national experts to assess the maglev project, which has not yet passed the government's evaluations.

"The city's congress has approved a total of 67 significant projects that will begin construction in 2008, but those projects that have not yet passed their evaluation are not on the list," Han said when asked for comments on the maglev.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, or legislature.

Shanghai rejected a request by activists to hold another protest on March 1 against the maglev.

January's march was the largest public demonstration in Shanghai since thousands took part in sometimes violent anti-Japanese street protests in 2005.

"Every citizen has their right to express their own opinion, but they have to express their opinion in accordance with corresponding legal procedures," Han said.

Launched in 2003, the maglev reaches speeds of more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) an hour as it floats on a magnetic cushion between Shanghai's international airport and an outlying part of its financial district in Pudong, 30 km (19 miles) away.

The line, the only commercial maglev in operation in the world, was developed and built by the government and a German consortium including industrial giant Siemens



The government wants to extend the line by 32 km (20 miles) through Shanghai to near the city's domestic airport, and then possibly to the tourist city of Hangzhou 200 km (125 miles) away.

Government officials insist the project is safe. (Reporting by George Chen; Writing by Alan Wheatley; Editing by Edmund Klamann)