China's first locally-developed and self-funded medium- and low-speed magnetic levitation line is expected to begin construction at the Badaling section of the Great Wall by the end of this year.

The line will extend 2.1 kilometres and the total cost is estimated at 200 million yuan (US$24 million).

The project is jointly funded by Beijing Holdings Ltd, Beijing Badaling Tourism Development Co Ltd and the National University of Defence Technology.

It will take the new magnetic levitation train three minutes to travel from the carpark to the scenic section of Badaling, according to Liu Zhiming, vice-president of Beijing Holdings Ltd, one of the investors.

The line will contribute to reducing traffic and pollution in Beijing, where traffic conditions are becoming increasing chaotic.

The train is estimated to have a capacity of 20,000 people per day, said Liu.

A 204-metre-long trial line for medium- and low-speed magnetic levitation has been built at the Changsha-based National University of Defence Technology in Central China's Hunan Province.

After the initial experiment in Changsha, the trial line will be moved to Beijing to form part of the Badaling line.

Until now, only Japan and Germany have mastered medium- and low-speed magnetic levitation technology.

Sources from the university revealed that the research and development of medium- and low-speed magnetic levitation technology began in the mid-1980s in China.

"Magnetic levitation is expected to be a prosperous industry, due to its environmentally friendly, land-saving and high-speed characteristics," said an unidentified official from the Designing and Planning Department under Beijing Holdings Ltd.

According to the official, a specific magnetic levitation developing company affiliated to Beijing Holdings Ltd has been set up to promote the industrialization of the advanced technology.

"The company is promoting the use of the technology for city transport to resolve traffic problems in some scenic spots," the official said.

Magnetic levitation technologies are divided into two categories: high-speed and medium- and low-speed.

Several foreign cities have built high-speed magnetic levitation lines for public transport.

Earlier this month, some Beijing-based media reported that the capital is planning to construct a high-speed magnetic levitation line to the capital's airport.

It will take 7 minutes for passengers to travel from Dongzhimen, the starting point of the line on the Second Ring Road in eastern Beijing, to the airport.

Reports said the major sponsor of the project is the Beijing General Municipal Engineering Design & Research Institute.

But officials from the institute said there are no specific plans as yet to build the airport link.

In March, China's first high-speed magnetic levitation line, around 30- kilometres long with an eight-minute travelling time, began construction in Shanghai.

With a total investment of 8.9 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion), the line, from Longyang Railway Station to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, is expected to be finished in 2003.

Experts and officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology as well as Ministry of Railways said that if the line is successful, they will consider constructing a Shanghai-Hangzhou magnetic levitation line, with a travelling time of 23 minutes between the two cities.