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Business Briefs

Transrapid under threat; compensation for angry air travelers; and European Parliament clears the way for GM products.

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The world's first levitation train departed Shanghai's airport for a trial run to the city's financial district on Dec. 29, 2002.

Transrapid in China faces cancellation

Now that the western German state of North-Rhine Westphalia has said it's abandoning plans to build the Metrorapid, a 3.2 billion euro high-speed magnetic rail link between Düsseldorf and Dortmund, there are growing fears that the consortium of ThyssenKrupp and Siemens may soon suffer a further blow. The decision seems to have affected the joint-venture's plans for China, with the planned Transrapid between Beijing and Shanghai now also appearing to be at risk. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday quoted Hans-Dieter Bott, committee member with Siemens traffic engineering, saying that "there are clear indications that China's transport minister currently favors a conventional high-speed railway" – a report confirmed by a spokesperson for ThyssenKrupp, who nonetheless hastened to add that so far, there's been no official cancellation of the 1,300 kilometer track and said that the rail group is still counting on further orders in China for shorter rail-links.

Compensation for air travelers

In future, if you get bumped off an overbooked or cancelled flight at a European airport, you stand to make a tidy profit. The European Parliament on Thursday passed legislation that requires airlines to compensate passengers with up to 600 euros ($690), despite opposition from budget airlines. The new rules will roughly double the level of compensation. For short-haul flights, the figure will be 250 euros, rising in stages to 600 euros for long-haul flights. For the first time, passengers hit by delays will also be able to get their air fares refunded – with anyone who has to wait longer than two hours for a short distance flight and four hours for a long distance one able to get their money back. The new compensation levels have been criticized by low-cost airlines, who complain that the payouts could be many times the value of the original ticket.

EU laws clear the way for GM food

The European parliament has approved two laws requiring strict labeling of genetically modified food, which may mean an end to the EU's controversial five-year ban on approving new crops. The laws allow new GM food and food products to be sold in Europe for the first time in five years, but only if they are clearly labeled. All products containing more than 0.9 percent genetically modified organisms now have to be labeled as GM products. European wariness over GM food has exasperated the United States, which has seen sales of its GM products to European markets dwindle. Last month, the U.S. filed a suit with the World Trade Organization calling for the moratorium to be lifted as it was an unfair trade barrier.

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