Maglev line runs smoothly
Meanwhile, the world's first maglev line in commercial use is expecting a significant increase in passenger flow on a sustainable basis, thanks to efforts by operators to cut ticket prices and improve services.
"Sinking (of the track) is inevitable, given the local soft land conditions," said Shi Jianqing, a publicity official with the Shanghai Maglev Transport Development Co Ltd (SMTD).
"The point is that such sinking has been taken into consideration throughout the project's proceedings, including stages like planning, design, construction and operation," he said.
"You can take a look at our daily operation now before judging whether the track sinking is serious or not."
The 30-kilometre-long line, built at a cost of US$1 billion, was built based on German technologies and links the Pudong International Airport and Longyang Lu Metro Station. It only takes about eight minutes for a maglev train to make a single trip between the destinations, with its peak speed hitting 430 kilometres per hour.
After being put into trial operation in December 2002, the line began offering regular daily trips in late March this year. Two trains now run at an interval of every 15 to 20 minutes, within the line's daily service time span of about nine hours.
Shi was echoed by Lin Guobin, a senior technical engineer with the SMTD.
"It (the track sinking) is no big deal in technical terms, and won't affect the line's safe running," he said.
The sinking has slowed down since it was detected at part of the track during the line's testing and trial operation period, and it is still within a normal range, according to Lin.
Further, various technological solutions have been applied to deal with the land's uneven subsidence, including a Chinese-designed bolstering base that adjusts the track's height in response to possible land sinking, Lin said.
Reassuring people after safety-related concerns were triggered by the reported track sinking, SMTD is also intensifying its efforts to give the maglev line more appeal to the public.
On April 15, the company cut the price of a one-way trip on the line from 75 yuan (US$9) to 50 yuan (US$6), and the price of a return trip ticket was also cut by half to 80 yuan (US$9.60).
The costs for VIP tickets were also greatly reduced: 100 yuan (US$12) for a single trip and 160 yuan (US$19) for a return trip, compared with 150 yuan (US$18) and 300 yuan (US$36) prior to the price changes.
Passengers can also enjoy a further 20 per cent discount when buying a one-way ticket if they are heading for the Pudong airport to catch a flight.
Other measures like adding more passenger information signs, an information desk and more service staff at the airport are also being added to improve services.
The market response seems encouraging.
The line handled altogether more than 27,570 passengers within only four days after the price change, a significant increase of over 63 per cent compared with the same period from the previous week.
Earlier reports had disclosed the line's poor traffic flow, as on average it only used less than 30 per cent of its capacity in its operation.
However, passengers seem to expect more.
"It'd be better if the line could be extended to downtown areas to save the trouble of changing lines, especially for those who carry a lot of luggage," said Xiao Zhanhong, a sales manager from South China's Guangdong Province.