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Magnetically levitated trains lift off at last
Published:  01 March, 2001

Magnetically levitated trains lift off at last

The world`s first commercial, long-distance, magnetically levitated (maglev) train will enter service in China in two years` time. This follows the signing of a deal between China and Germany`s Transrapid consortium.

Three 600-pasenger trains, travelling at speed of up to 430km/h, will whisk passengers along a 30km route from Shanghai`s airport to its financial district in just seven minutes.

The trains will "float" on an electromagnetic field a few centimetres above the concrete track, and will be propelled by what is essentially a linear motor.

The price of the Shanghai system has not been revealed but it is thought to be around £660-800m, with the German government contributing financing worth at least £65m.

The Chinese order marks a commercial breakthrough for the Transrapid consortium - which includes Siemens, ThyssenKrupp and DB Railways. The group has been developing the technology since 1978 but last year suffered a severe blow when the German government cancelled plans for a 292km link between Hamburg and Berlin because it felt the £3.2bn cost was too high.

Transrapid hopes to pick up further orders in China and elsewhere on the back of the Shanghai scheme. Routes being considered include a 200km extension from Shanghai to Hangzhou and a 1,300km route between Shanghai and Peking.

The US Government has recently earmarked £10m to investigate two possible maglev services in the US: a 64km-route between Washington and Baltimore; and a 75km-link from Pittsburgh airport to its eastern suburbs. The successful scheme will be eligible for a government grant of £600m.

A recent study of a proposed maglev route between Amsterdam and Groningen in the Netherlands has indicated that it could be profitable and the Dutch government is due to decide soon on the proposal.

A Japanese consortium has been developing a rival maglev system.

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