Transrapid collision in Germany kills 23

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Location of Lathen, Germany

Twenty-three people died when a Transrapid maglev train travelling on the system's test track in Lathen in Germany, near the Netherlands border, collided with a maintenance vehicle on the track. Ten others were severely injured according to Karl-Heinz Brüggemann, a spokesman for the rescue effort.

The driverless train was estimated as operating at 170 km/h (105 mph) when the accident occurred around 09:30 local time (07:30 UTC). The unmanned train, with 31 passengers aboard crashed into a maintenance wagon containing 2 workers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the site to pay her respect to the victims and the rescuers.

File photo of a Transrapid train on its test track

The train had traveled about 1 km (0.6 miles) from its departure station when it struck the maintenance vehicle. Debris from the accident was spread over a 300 m (984 ft) section of track. Police spokesman Hans Kley confirmed that the Transrapid train did not leave the track, which is elevated approximately 5 metres (16 ft) above the ground. Other reports indicate that the train's roof was torn off in the collision. Rescue workers used ladder trucks from local fire departments to evacuate the stopped train. On hearing of the accident, Germany's Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee suspended his trip in China and made preparations to return to Germany to view the accident scene.

The 31.8 km (20 mile) test system in Germany was built by a consortium of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp. It has been in operation since 1984 and is regularly used by tour groups for demonstration runs four days per week. Transrapid trains are capable of speeds up to 450 km/h (280 mph). This accident is the first on the system that included fatalities; analysts so far attribute the cause of the accident to a lack of communications between the train operators and the maintenance employees. The only commercial installation of Transrapid technology in service is currently the Shanghai Maglev Train linking Shanghai Metro Line 2's Longyang Road station to Pudong International Airport.


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