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Germany

Schröder Christens First Transrapid Line

With Tuesday's successful inauguration of Germany's Transrapid train technology, the world's speediest, in Shanghai, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder gets his first good economic news of the year.

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Gerhard Schröder and Zhu Rongji test drive the world's fastest train

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's ride Tuesday on the maiden run of the world's fastest train might have provided the kickstart his country's ailing economy badly needs. Accompanied by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, the chancellor enjoyed a smooth test run of the first commercial magnetic train.

The new "Transrapid" magnetic levitation train route, which won't officially open to the public until next year, runs 30 kilometres from Shanghai's international Airport to the financial district. It reaches speeds of more than 400 kilometers an hour on a journey that is completed in just 8 minutes.

A $1 billion economic boost

With Germany threatening to slip into recession, Schröder is now able to start the year with a slightly more positive economic outlook. China has currently paid $1 billion for the pilot technology.

The money spent on pioneering technology has been a gamble for the Germans. The German government has supported the project with an investment of 700 million euros. Germany now hopes the financial backing will pay off and more orders will follow.

"The close co-operation between the industrial and high-tech sectors has made this important project possible," Schröder said.

But critics argue that at a cost of $1 billion per train, the Transrapid is an expensive waste of energy. Japan has proved that its high speed trains can almost compete with Transrapid on standard tracks.

Other routes planned

On Tuesday, the gambit seemed to have paid off. Speaking after the maiden voyage on the train, China's Zhu said the country intended to expand the line.

"We are planning to extend the length of track to 300 kilometers," he said. "We want to build the network as far as Hangzhou on one side and Nanjing on the other."

A boost for German-Chinese relations

The partnership is the latest development in an increased Chinese-German cooperation. Germany has already begun to forge a series of successful economic links with the Asian superpower and has recently seen a 30 percent increase in foreign trade with China.

This has proven to be a great cooperative effort between China and Germany," Schröder said. "This is wonderful German technology and we also have great respect for the achievements of Chinese engineers in developing this project. We are all very pleased."

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