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Transrapid 09 at the Emsland test facility in Germany

Transrapid is a German high-speed monorail train using magnetic levitation. Based on a patent from 1934, planning of the Transrapid system started in 1969. The test facility for the system in Emsland, Germany was completed in 1987. In 1991 the technical readiness for application was approved by the Deutsche Bundesbahn in cooperation with renowned universities.[citation needed]

Its current application-ready version, the Transrapid 09, has been designed for 500 km/h cruising speed and allows acceleration and deceleration of approx. 1 m/s2.

In 2004, the first commercial implementation was completed. The Shanghai Maglev Train connects the rapid transit network 30.5 km (19.0 mi) to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The Transrapid system has not yet been deployed on a long-distance intercity line.

The system is developed and marketed by Transrapid International, a joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp. Critical voices, such as Rod Eddington [1] refer to recent developments of railway and other competing technologies and draw parallels between Transrapid and previous high technology hypes without broad market impact outside niche applications.

Transrapid's technology is more expensive per mile to construct than conventional train systems, but uses less energy once installed, and has much lower maintenance costs.[citation needed]



See also: Technology in the Magnetic levitation train article.


The superspeed maglev system has no wheels, axles, transmissions, or pantographs. It does not roll, it hovers using the attractive magnetic force between the two linear arrays of electromagnetic coils - one side in the vehicle, the other in the guideway - that function as a magnetic dipole. Electronic systems measuring the distance at 100 kHz frequency guarantee that the clearance between the coils attached to the underside of the guideway and the magnetic portion of the vehicle wrapped around the guideway edges remains constant (nominally 10 mm). When levitated, the vehicle has about 15 centimeters of clearance over the guideway surface. The Transrapid requires less power to hover than it needs to run its air conditioning equipment. The levitation system and all on board 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) at speeds above 80 km/h, while at lower speeds power was obtained through physical connections to the track up to version TR08; this new energy transmission has been developed for TR09 so that the trainset no longer needs physical contact at any speeds. In case of power failure of the track’s propulsion system, the Transrapid car can use on-board backup batteries to power the levitation system.


The Transrapid maglev system uses a synchronous longstator linear motor for both propulsion and braking. It works like a rotating electric motor whose stator is "unrolled" along the underside of the guideway, so that instead of producing a torque (rotation) it produces a linear force along its length. The electro magnets in the vehicle that lift it also work as the equivalent of the excitation portion (rotor). Since the magnetic traveling field only works in one direction, if there were several trains on the track section, they would travel in the same direction, making collisions between moving trains less likely.

Energy requirements

The normal energy consumption of the Transrapid is approximately 50–100 kW per section for levitation and travel, and vehicle control. The drag coefficient of the Transrapid is about 0.26. The air resistance of the vehicle, which has a frontal cross section of 16 m², requires a power consumption, at 400 km/h (111 m/s) cruising speed, given by the following formula:

 P = c_w \cdot A_{\rm Front} \cdot v^3 \cdot (\mbox{density of surrounding air})/2

 \begin{matrix} P &=& 0{.}26 \cdot 16\,\mathrm{m}^2 \cdot (111\,\mathrm{m}/\mathrm{s})^3 \cdot 1{.}24\,\mathrm{kg}/\mathrm{m}^3 /2 \ P &=& 3{.}53\cdot10^6\,\mathrm{kg}\cdot\mathrm{m}^2/\mathrm{s}^3 = 3{.}53\cdot10^6\,\mathrm{N}\cdot\mathrm{m}/\mathrm{s} = 3{.}53\,\mathrm{MW} \end{matrix}

Power consumption compares favorably with other high-speed rail systems. With an efficiency of 0.85, the power required is about 4.2 MW. Energy consumption for levitation and guidance purposes equates to approximately 1.7 kW/t. As the propulsion system is also capable of functioning in reverse, energy is transferred back into the electricity network during braking. An exception to this is when an emergency stop is performed using the emergency landing skids beneath the vehicle, although this method of bringing the vehicle to a stop is intended only as a last resort should it be impossible or undesirable to keep the vehicle levitating on back-up power to a natural halt.

Market segment, ecological impact and historical parallels

Compared to classical railway lines, Transrapid allows higher speeds and gradients with lower wear and tear and even lower energy consumption and maintenance needs. The Transrapid track is more flexible, and therefore more easily adapted to specific geographical circumstances than a classical train system. Cargo is restricted to a maximum payload of 15 metric tonnes per car. Transrapids allows maximum speeds of 550 km/h, placing it between conventional High Speed Trains (200–320 km/h) and Air Traffic (720–990 km/h). The magnetic field generator, an important part of the engine being a part of the track, limits the system capacity.

From a competition standpoint, the Transrapid is a proprietary solution. The track being a part of the engine, only the single-source Transrapid vehicles and infrastructure can be operated. There is no multisourcing foreseen concerning vehicles or the highly complicated crossings and switches. Unlike classical railways or other infrastructure networks (as jointly administrated by the Bundesnetzagentur in Germany) a Transrapid system does not allow any direct competition.

Ecological impact

The Transrapid itself is an electrically driven, clean, high-speed, high-price, high-capacity means of transport able to build up point-to-point passenger connections in geographically challenged surroundings. This has to be set in comparison with the impact on heritage and or landscape protection areas (compare Waldschlößchenbrücke). Any impact of emissions has to take into account the source of electrical energy. The reduced expense, noise and vibration of a people-only Transrapid versus a cargo train track is not directly comparable. The reuse of existing tracks and the interfacing with existing networks is limited. The Transrapid indirectly competes for resources, space and tracks in urban and city surroundings with classical urban transport systems and high speed trains.

Historic parallels

The debate and the development of Suspension railways before 1900 as well as Alweg around 1960 and monorails (e.g. Aerobus) in Germany have a variety of parallels:

  • they were all developed in German-speaking countries and were deployed in limited capacities overseas
  • they failed in the planned market segment but had an impact as “future technology” symbols in the media, politics and public debate

Supporters praise Transrapid and its predecessors as

  • advanced technology per se
  • a sign and guarantee of progress and innovation in Germany
  • the mark of a new age or further Kondratiev wave

Opponents see the Transrapid and the predecessors as white elephants without real market chances and usability.

For advantages and disadvantages of maglev trains, see also: maglev.


German high-speed competition

The Transrapid originated as one of several competing concepts for new land-based high speed public transportation developed in Germany. It also faced competition from the InterCityExpress (ICE), a high-speed rail system based on "traditional" railway technology. The ICE “won” in that it was adopted nationwide in Germany. A variety of studies for possible Transrapid systems was elaborated, including a long-distance line from Hamburg to Berlin. The last left was an airport connection track from Munich city to the Airport, which was finally canceled in early 2008 due to dramatically increasing cost projections.


Transrapid magnetic levitation train in Shanghai, connecting the subway station to Pudong International Airport

The only commercial implementation so far was in the year 2000, when the Chinese government ordered a Transrapid track to be built connecting Shanghai to its Pudong International Airport. It was inaugurated in 2002, and regular daily trips started in March 2004. The travel speed is 430 km/h, which the Maglev train maintains for 50 seconds as the short, 30.5 km (19.0 mi), track only allows the cruising speed to be maintained for a short time before deceleration must begin. The average number of riders per day (14 hours of operation) is about 7,500, while the maximum seating capacity per train is 440. A second class ticket price of about 50 RMB ( Renminbi) (about 5 Euro) is 4 times the price of the Airport Bus and ten times more expensive than a comparable Underground ticket [2].

The project was sponsored by the German Hermes loans with DM 200 million. The total cost is believed to be $1.33 billion.

A controversial planned extension of the line to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (35 km) and onward to the city of Hangzhou (175 km) has been repeatedly delayed. Originally planned to be ready for Expo 2010, final approval was granted on August 18, 2008, and construction is now scheduled to start in 2010 for completion in 2014.[3]


A 40-kilometre (25 mi) project between Munich Central Station and Munich Airport was close to being built, but was canceled on 27 March 2008, when the German government scrapped the Transrapid project because of a massive overrun in costs. Prior to the cancellation, the Bavarian governing party CSU faced internal and local resistance, in particular from communities along the proposed route. The CSU had planned to position Transrapid as an example of future technology and innovation in Bavaria. German federal transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee announced the decision after a crisis meeting in Berlin at which industry representatives reportedly revealed that costs had risen from 1.85 billion euros to well over 3 billion ($4.7 billion).[4] This rise in projected costs, however was mostly due to the cost estimates of the construction of the tunnel and related civil engineering after the designated operator Deutsche Bahn AG shifted most of the risk-sharing towards its subcontractors - and not due to the cost of the maglev technology.


Iran and a German company have reached an agreement on using maglev trains to link the cities of Tehran and Mashhad. The agreement was signed at the Mashhad International Fair site between Iranian Ministry of Roads and Transportation and the German company. Maglev trains can reduce the 900km travel time between Tehran and Mashhad to about 2.5 hours. [5] Munich-based Schlegel Consulting Engineers said they had signed the contract with the Iranian ministry of transport and the governor of Mashad. "We have been mandated to lead a German consortium in this project," a spokesman said. "We are in a preparatory phase." The next step will be assemble a consortium, a process that is expected to take place "in the coming months," the spokesman said. The project could be worth between 10 billion and 12 billion euros, the Schlegel spokesman said. Siemens and ThyssenKrupp, the developers of a high-speed maglev train, called the Transrapid, both said they were unaware of the proposal. The Schlegel spokesman said Siemens and ThyssenKrupp were currently "not involved." in the consortium[6]

United Kingdom

The Transrapid was considered[7] by the UK government for a 500 km/h (310 mph) link between London and Glasgow, via Birmingham, Liverpool/Manchester, Leeds, Teesside, Newcastle and Edinburgh, but was rejected in July 2007.[8]

Projects elsewhere

Several European projects have been studied, but so far classical rail has been the preferred solution.

There have been several evaluations conducted in the USA[9]. Again, so far, classical railway remains the suggested solution. No actual project has been started yet.

There have been initial talks for a project in the Persian Gulf region, connecting Bahrain – Qatar – UAE.[citation needed]

September 2006 accident

On 22 September 2006 a Transrapid train collided with a maintenance vehicle at 170 km/h on the test track in Lathen. 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. The news media reported 23 fatalities and that several people were severely injured, these being the first fatalities on any maglev.[10] The accident was caused by human error with the first train being allowed to leave the station before the maintenance vehicle had moved off the track. This situation is avoided in a production environment by installing an automatic collision avoidance system.

SMT Fire Accident

On 4 August 2006 a Transrapid train running on Shanghai Maglev Line caught fire. It was fortunate that the fire was quickly put out by Shanghai's firemen. It was reported that the vehicle's on-board batteries may have caused the fire.

Alleged theft of Transrapid technology

In April 2006 new announcements by Chinese officials planning on cutting maglev rail costs by a third have stirred some strong comments by various German officials and more diplomatic statements of concern from Transrapid officials. The Deutsche Welle reports that the China Daily quoted the State Council encouraging engineers to "learn and absorb foreign advanced technologies while making further innovations."[11]

The China Aviation Industry Corporation said in their defense that the new Zhui Feng maglev train is not based or dependent on foreign technology. They claim it is not only a much lighter train, but also has a much more advanced design.

See also

For an overview of competitors to this system, see High-speed rail.


External links



Simple English

The Transrapid is a high speed train developed in Germany. It uses magnetic levitation. It can go very fast, up to 500km/h. Since now it is only used in Shanghai. It is developed by the company TRANSRAPID INTERNATIONAL GmbH & Co. KG, a company of the Siemens AG and the ThyssenKrupp AG.

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