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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Controversy over maglev proposals
maglev train
Maglev trains are already being used in Shanghai
Plans to build a 311mph magnetic rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh have divided political opponents.

Labour Finance Minister Tom McCabe said the high-speed maglev trains could help Scotland's two biggest cities compete with larger European business capitals.

The Conservative Party has already pledged to introduce the system in its election manifesto.

But both the SNP and Liberal Democrats said there was a danger maglev would impact on other rail improvement plans.

The trains, which could cut the journey time between Scotland's two major cities to just 15 minutes, were backed as "the best option" for improving public transport links in a report by the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport earlier this month.

Zero emissions

Maglev trains float 1cm above an electro-magnetic cushion, are claimed to produce zero emissions and are much quieter than conventional trains.

It would cost an estimated 1.8bn to build a maglev link in Scotland as the trains are unable to use the existing rail network. Shanghai in China is the only other city in the world that currently uses the system.

Mr McCabe said he believed work on a maglev link could begin during the term of the next parliament, using the Scottish Executive's powers under recently overhauled planning laws to push through projects of national importance.

Mr McCabe said: "The economic benefit of such a system, in terms of linking the two cities and producing what is effectively a joint labour force, could amount to about 500m a year.

"It is a very exciting proposal that would effectively link our two main cities, making Glasgow and Edinburgh into one economic powerhouse."

Japanese maglev test train
It would cost 1.8bn to build a maglev link in Scotland

Conservative transport spokesman David Davidson queried how Labour planned to pay for maglev if re-elected.

Mr Davidson added: "We proposed that this should be investigated some time ago. It is interesting that Labour party is joining us because there is a huge problem getting between Edinburgh and Glasgow, particularly since they let the M8 go to rack and ruin.

"Since Jack McConnell has just announced that money will be taken from everything else and put into education does that mean that maglev is put into the distance or is it a priority over the new Forth bridge, which the ministers also agreed with us is an essential thing for Scotland."

Kenny MacAskill, the SNP transport spokesman, said he believed the maglev plans were "pie in the sky" and pledged to improve the existing rail network by investing 300m before looking at new hi-speed technology.

'Important projects'

He said: "By all means let's look at fast trains and fast links, but we believe that can be done by electrification on the existing line.

"As for maglev, that is yet more pie in the sky from an executive that promises a lot but delivers little."

Tavish Scott of the Liberal Democrats said there were several other rail projects already in the pipeline for Scotland which should be completed before maglev was pursued, such as the Borders rail link and new links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

Mr Scott said: "These are important projects for Scotland and I would not wish to put any of these in jeopardy."

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