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Maglev projects may flop

01 Apr 2002

TWO YEARS ago the German government decided to call time on plans to build a high speed magnetic levitation line between Berlin and Hamburg. It was, of course, out of the question to abandon 30 years of research and development paid for by the German taxpayer, so the government promised to keep the Transrapid technology on life support. Two schemes branded Metrorapid were put forward for short-distance maglev routes: one a 79 km link between Düsseldorf and Dortmund costing €3·2bn, the other a 37 km line from München city centre to the airport with a price tag of €1·6bn.

On February 25 Transport Minister Kurt Bodewig indicated that the government would provide €1·75bn for the Ruhr project and €550m for the other. It is not clear when or from which part of the heavily-stretched federal budget the funds will come, nor how the rest of the finance will be raised. Neither the Länder nor the industrial partners are rushing to bridge the gap, which suggests that Bodewig's comment that 'we want Transrapid in Germany' may at this stage be little more than wishful thinking.

Not only that, but the position of the companies involved in the project to build a 30 km Transrapid route in Shanghai appears to be a little uncomfortable. According to Focus magazine, the Chinese are demanding full access to the maglev technology developed by ThyssenKrupp and Siemens. The report says Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji warned the President of Hessen Roland Koch that China would opt for Japanese Shinkansen technology for the Beijing - Shanghai high speed line if the Germans refuse to comply.