SOME railway publicity managers could learn a thing or two from Transrapid International, the company set up to market and promote German maglev technology. If the stories published by sundry media from Sydney to Santiago are to be believed, we shall shortly see Transrapid vehicles whooshing businessmen across the Andes, whisking pilgrims to Mecca, and lifting airline passengers from Moscow to Sheremetyevo airport. One Berlin newspaper reports that there are Transrapid projects totalling 4000 km in no fewer than 18 countries, including Ukraine, Brazil and Australia.

Your columnist’s favourite is a DM14bn scheme announced by Thyssen Industrie Chairman Eckhard Rohkamm for a maglev freight route across the Austrian Alps that could be built by 2005. This would hustle 110 convoys of floating crates a day over the Brenner pass between Kufstein and Trento, replacing the army of lorries that grinds daily to and fro through the mountains...

To our knowledge the only Transrapid project with any kind of official sanction for construction is Chancellor Kohl’s pet scheme to link Hamburg and Berlin, which despite numerous approvals, green lights and other go-aheads, is still not certain to be built.

While on the subject of unconventional modes of transport in Germany, we were intrigued by news that residents in Wuppertal have great affection for their Schwebebahn, the upside down light rail line hanging from spectacular steel arches astride the River Wupper and downtown streets. So attached are they that they would like preservation orders slapped on the stations rather than have them rebuilt in modern style to handle more passengers. o