Transrapid is a German monorail system using magnetic levitation.
Based on a patent from 1934, planning of an actual Transrapid system started in 1969.
The test facility for the system in Emsland, Germany was completed in 1987, and in 1989 a Transrapid train reached a record-breaking speed of 436 kilometres per hour.
Today the speed-record has cracked the 500 km/h (310 mph) limit.
The system is developed and marketed by Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp.
Economic and environmental considerations
The Transrapid is said to be more energy efficient than a standard train and considerably less noisy.
This is chiefly due to the absence of friction between train and track. (However, for high-speed trains in general, most energy is consumed to overcome aerodynamic drag, as it scales, other than the wheels' friction, with the square of the velocity.)
It is also capable of climbing significantly steeper tracks, rendering it especially suitable for mountainous regions.
It is possible to flexibly adapt its guideway to the landscape and to have it tightly follow existing roads, railroad tracks, and power lines.
Therefore, no significant interventions in the environment are necessary and pristine landscape is protected.
Furthermore, the original use of the landscape under the guideway is still possible (farming or grazing for example).
However, track building costs are higher than for conventional high-speed trains.
The synchronous longstator linear motor of the Transrapid maglev system is used both for propulsion and braking.
It functions like a rotating electric motor whose stator is cut open and stretched along under the guideway.
Inside the motor windings, alternating current generates a magnetic traveling field which moves the vehicle without contact.
The support magnets in the vehicle function as the excitation portion (rotor).
The respective magnetic traveling field works in only one direction, and therefore makes train collisions impossible, as more than one train on the track section would travel in the same direction.
The 'superspeed' maglev system has no wheels, axles, transmissions, or pantographs.
It does not roll; it hovers.
Electronic systems guarantee that the clearance remains constant (nominally 10 mm).
To hover, the Transrapid requires less power than its air conditioning equipment.
The levitation system and all onboard electronics are supplied by the power recovered from harmonic oscillations of magnetic field of the track's linear stator (Those oscillations being parasitic cannot be used for propulsion anyway).
In case of power failure of the track's propulsion system Transrapid car uses on-board backup batteries that can supply power to the levitation system.
Transportation system for Germany
The Transrapid originated as one of the competing concepts for new land-based high speed public transportation for Germany.
Another competing concept was the InterCity Express (ICE).
The ICE "won" in that it was adopted nationwide in Germany.
It is argued that the ICE won out in part because of its ability to run on conventional tracks (albeit not at full speeds, near stations they are often even slower than commuter trains).
Nevertheless, for some reason Transrapid development was not scrapped at this point, but continued as well (though the train was not adopted nationwide).
However, in the 1990s, intense political discussions about the Transrapid started in Germany.
Though technically superior to normal railroad systems, the transrapid was considered too expensive, as the companies developing it relied on federal subsidies.
The controversy mostly raged over the question whether public money should be invested in construction of a track for commercial use.
Plans for a track from Berlin to Hamburg were canceled because legislators were not convinced that the project would ever become profitable and hence were unwilling to invest the money in times of tight budgets - in spite of the alleged importance of having a working Transrapid system in Germany in order to ease marketing of the system abroad.
Building a maglev track is less costly then a comparatively HSR line.
The non-contact technology uses fabric manufactured girders.
To construct a maglev track is approx. 20-50 percent less expensive in terms of construction.
However, the vehicles cost much more than conventional high-speed trains bringing overall project costs ahead of HSR track projects.
In comparison, maglev technology might have equal or slightly higher costs by giving commuters much better time saving benefits.
Thus, maglev technology gives a fortunate ratio of travel time to infrastructure costs.
What maglev costs more in terms of the overall project expenses, it saves in maintenance efforts and costs as well as energy consumption.
Even though there is no long-time experience drawn from any commercial application, simulations and first data obtained from the Shanghai project prove the assumptions.
Transrapid in China
It was inaugurated in 2002.
Regular daily trips started in March 2004.
However, low passenger numbers, due to the remoteness of the terminal station from the city center and high ticket costs, hampered the line.
During the first week, the average number of riders per train was only 73 people out of a maximum seating capacity of 440 passengers.
One-way trip prices have recently dropped to 50 Renminbi ($6 USD).
Nevertheless, the Shanghai Project was designed as a demonstration line, primarily to demonstrate the state-of-the-art technology and capabilities of the German maglev system.
A high tilt compared with a relatively high speed of 267 mph (430 kmh) and leaving passengers in the outskirts of Pudong shows that the Chinese authorities were more interested in the technology transfer than commercial success.
However, in terms of safety, reliability, availability, and functionality the Transrapid maglev system has demonstrated the readiness of Transrapid for commercial applications worldwide.
The Transrapid manufacturers had high hopes of obtaining a subsequent order from China for a track connecting Shanghai with Beijing.
Hence, it was considered a serious drawback when in 2004 China considered to chose the Japanese high-speed train Shinkansen, to the disappointment of Siemens, which had hoped to sell at least the ICE which is manufactured by them as the Transrapid system partly is.
Public anger about Beijing's decision shifted the decision further into the future.
In November 2004 talks began about extending the track from Shanghai to Hangzhou, 180 km away.
A maglev would shorten travel time to less than a fourth of current time, from 2½ hours to 27 minutes.
New projects for Germany
A Transrapid connection of the Bavarian capital Munich to its international airport is now planned.
It would reduce the current connection time via S-Bahn (German city railroad system) from about 40 minutes to 10 minutes.
New project in the UK
The Transrapid is also being considered (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1500038,00.html) by the UK government as a 270 mph link between London and Glasgow.
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transrapid) October 2005
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in October 2005. E. & O.E.
September 22, 2006 accident
Wikinews has news related to: Transrapid collision in Germany kills 23
On September 22, 2006 an elevated Transrapid train collided with a maintenance vehicle on a test run at 170 kilometres per hour in Lathen (Lower Saxony / north-western Germany).
The train did not derail.
The maintenance vehicle destroyed the first section of the train, and came to rest on its roof.
This was the first major accident involving a Transrapid train.
Most of the passengers were in the first of the three sections of the Transrapid.
The news media is reporting 23 fatalities and several severely injured after end of salvage work, these being the first ever fatalities on any maglev.
There were two men on the maintenance vehicle. They saw the train approaching and jumped to the ground. This was four or five metres down - a minor fall. The passengers on the train had no way to escape, and those that survived were evacuated by emergency personnel.
The accident is reported to have been caused by a combination of human error and a technical flaw.
The maintenance vehicle carried out routine sweeps of the track to remove debris, fallen branches, etc. and is supposed to report back to the control centre via voice radio once it has cleared the track.
Control personnel should not allow the main train to depart the station before the maintenance vehicle has cleared, but it appears that they failed to check the maintenance vehicle's position before the Transrapid vehicle departed.
The compounding technical flaw was that although Transrapid vehicles on the guideway are automatically tracked and controlled by the OCS, the maintenance vehicle did not operate in the same way and thus was not known to the computerized control system.
Had the maintenance vehicle reported its position electronically as all Transrapid trains do, redundant computerized safety systems would never have allowed the passenger vehicle to approach.
The test track in Lathen is very simple. It consists of a main track and a single station with a side track. When you are in the station, it is easy to see whether the maintenance vehicle is somewhere on the track: if it is not parked in the station, it must be somewhere else.
The accident had also alarmed Shanghai, China, which also have their maglev train facilities built by Transrapid.
You can click on these photos for an enlargement.
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