Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Thursday, 27 March 2008

German plans for maglev derailed

Maglev train in Shanghai
The Shanghai maglev is the only one in the world in operation

Germany's plan to launch a magnetic levitation - or maglev - rail service has collapsed amid soaring costs.

It was to be built in Munich from the airport to the city centre, making it Europe's first commercial maglev train.

The plans came unstuck after the estimated cost of the track spiralled to 3.2bn euros ($5bn; 2.5bn), up from 1.85bn euros.

Maglev trains use electric-powered magnets that enable them to float above their tracks, allowing for high speeds.

"The Munich magnetic levitation rail project has collapsed," said Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee.

The developers of the train, Siemens and ThyssenKrupp, had been working on the project which had been spearheaded by construction firm Hochtief.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn, Munich airport and the European Union were also involved.

Bavaria's plans for the train, announced last year, had created great excitement in Germany since it had already played a leading role in pioneering the new technology.

It also lifted hopes for the future of the maglev trains, which have enjoyed little commercial success outside China.

In Shanghai, the floating train has shuttled passengers between the airport and the financial district since 2003 at a top speed of more than 500km/h (310mph).

Japan has said it aims to launch its first maglev rail service by 2025.

The UK was first to introduce maglev trains in 1984 in Birmingham to bridge a short distance between the city's airport and railway station.

But after 11 years in operation, reliability problems and the sheer expense of extending the network, which are incompatible with traditional railway lines, prompted its replacement with a conventional system.

Graphic showing how a maglev train works
Like poles on magnets keep train above track
Train is propelled by electro-magnetic system in the sides of the "guideway" instead of onboard engine
Top speed (with passengers) - 450km/h (280mph)
Developed by Transrapid Int in Germany
Operating commercially in Shanghai
Test facility in Emsland, northern Germany, is longest of its kind at 31.5km (19.5 miles)
Source: Transrapid International

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