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Author Archives: KvW
In the night from 13 to 14 september 2017, a Transrapid TR09, the latest model from the leading series of magnetic field trains, was transported to Nortrup. The company Kemper, relatives of the inventor of this technology, purchased this from the German government.
Heavy haul trucks transported the 3 sections of the 75 m long train. Journalists and spectators gathered around the gate of the former TVE in Lathen to witness the transport leaving.
Representatives of the GfM, the International Maglev Board, welsterra and Stichting Freedom of Mobility were at the scene and interviewed by some of the TV-crews. They stressed that Germany should be aware of how much the Transrapid is valued amongst Maglev experts.
Despite the stormy weather and some tight road curves, the transport went smoothly. The wind was no problem for the up to 505 km/h fast train and hence the transport reached in Nortrup at the end of the night.
There too, the press and quite a few residents were awaiting the arrival. The Kemper Company celebrated this day with free bread with delicious bratwurst and drinks for all hungry persons present.
In the early morning, the lifting started of the Transrapid onto a purposely-built concrete track on the company’s premises.
Due to imbalance and the weather, it took somewhat longer, but in the afternoon the first vehicle section was resting at the track.
The Kemper Company is going to use the train as a conference and training office, as well as opening part to the public for exposition as to why it is here.
The company will also partly construct a glass station-like building around it. They hope to have it all ready in time for the company’s 130-year anniversary.
About (this) Transrapid
The Transrapid TR09 class was conceived as a super speed intercity, regional or airport express. As a result of many decennia of successful development, Transrapid is the worlds only fully automated system that is officially approved for fast passenger transport.
But with a huge list of overdue work on the existing infrastructure and still ongoing effects of the unification, Germany had and, for the foreseeable future, still has other priorities than large-scale construction of new Maglev infrastructure. After cancelling the Munich project in 2008, it proved difficult for Germany to export this technology that they had not been able to use in their own country.
A Transrapid route can be adapted more easily than a high-speed rail route. The latest promising project, a 120 km long route on Tenerife, needed 24-41 km (!) less tunnelling compared to the alternatives. However, few other foreign projects used this advantage. Unfortunately, Spain cut the islands infrastructure funding in 2011-2012 as a result of the credit crisis.
Lacking other short-term applications, the TVE Development and Training Centre was closed and the first production model of the Transrapid TR09 was auctioned. The Kemper Company will cherish this Transrapid as part of their family history.
It doesn’t make the Transrapid technology itself history, though. There are still ongoing projects considering Maglev with a horizon on the year 2040 like in the U.S. and even in the Netherlands. ThyssenKrupp meanwhile maintains the technology for new opportunities and uses parts of it in other products. Also China, Korea, Japan, as well as Hyperloop, train manufacturers and even the IC industry continue to build on the wealth of knowledge from Transrapid technology.
Stichting Freedom of Mobility is present on 17-18-19 March 2015 at the RailTech 2015 exhibition (http://www.railtech.com/en/) in Jaarbeurs Utrecht, the Netherlands. RailTech is the largest rail exhibition in the Benelux.
You can find us with a shared stand of the Railforum Centraal area, in hall 3, section D102. A floorplan is available too here (warning: large picture).
We promote Maglev and show that the technology is alive and (long time) ready to be deployed. We explain why Maglev plays a key part of our vision, how it can be used not to compete with but boost existing rail service and why it should be in focus of any railroad company that wants to provide real value to the passengers in countries like the Netherlands.
Using the latest model Transrapid TR09, kindly provided to us by ThyssenKrupp Transrapid, we can prove that the Transrapid Maglev has successfully continued development after the Lathen accident, contrary to public belief. Please feel free to meet us and ask us any question!
On invite of Ordina we gave a presention “Toekomst met Magneetzweeftrein” (Future with Maglev) for the Railacademy at June 26th, 2014. We could explain our vision and the role the maglev plays in it. We were pleased with the reactions and actively participating audience. At this place we’d like to thank the organisation and attendants.
Unfortunately we couldn’t address some questions during the session. But we do that here because they might be interesting to a larger audience.
Costs, general remark
The most frequently asked questions regard costs. But in our vision costs are limited only to indicators to assess the feasibility. For actual cost we have to wait until the implementation plan is drawn up.
Otherwise cost projects will get a too large margin of error, depending on for instance spot prices of commodities (metal, concrete), land and labour. Espescially the calculated requirements of concrete constructions are important. The unit price of concrete can differ a factor 9 based on the required additives!
Fortunately, we do have such figures from previous Transrapid projects like the Zuiderzeelijn. We use these here to answer some of the questions.
Comparison investement costs infrastructure Transrapid and HSL
The explorations of the Zuiderzee route section between Lelystad and Groningen showed that the capital investment for the Transrapid infrastructure per kilometer is comparable with the construction of an HSL, namely 9.2 respectively 8.2 billion guilders, price level 2000.
(, pag 20, table 16).
This section is good to compare as it fully consists of new tracks, not re-using any existing tracks. The difference is only 12%, despite the fact that the Transrapid has 2.5 x more stations, (Lelystad, Emmeloord, Heerenveen, Drachten and Groningen) over the HSL (Heerenveen, Groningen) and its dedicated energy supply costs are included (, pag 7, 8, 19).
Note that this concerns costs of 2001. Since then, developments such as the MMF Guideway of Professor Flessner have the potential to make Transrapid infrastructure another 30% cheaper.
-  PDF: Snelle verbinding tussen de Randstad en het Noorden – Resultaten van de verkenningen deel I en deel II
Ministerie van V&W, VROM, Den Haag, 15 Oktober 2001.
The original pdf has meanwhile been removed, but the relevant Parliamentary Paperk was still on line on Jul, 4th 2014.
Comparison maintenance costs Transrapid vs HSL
The Munich airport link studies provide us with cost indicators for the maintenance of the Transrapid maglev train and infrastructure in comparison to the ICE3 high speed train.
Maintenance costs per km double track of the maglev infrastructure are € 0.15 to 0.17 million per annum, well below that of the HSL with € 0.23 million per annum (, pag 296, 297).
Given the low-wear technology of maglev line, its 25% lower maintenance costs are no surprise. This relates to about 0.5% of the initial capital investment. For bridges in Germany this figure is 0.6%, which makes it plausible because the elevated maglev line can be regarded as a kind of continuous viaduct.
Regarding the vehicles, at comparable utilizable floor area the maintenance costs of the Transrapid maglev with € 2910/day are also well below those of the ICE3 with € 4160/day (, pag 297).
These 30% lower costs of maglev vehicles can be explained by the low wear due their lack of a mechanical drive train, in spite of having comparable electrical complexity to the ICE3.
-  Book: Transrapid und Rad-Schiene-Hochgeschwindigkeitsbahn – Ein gesamtheitlicher Systemvergleich
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Schach, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Jehle, Dipl.-Ing. René Naumann
Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 2006, ISBN: 3-540-28334-X
Networking ability of complex switches of Transrapid?
The figures of maintenance and punctuality prove that the complex Maglev switches have no negative effect on the maintenance and reliability of the system.
The Transrapid in Shanghai is record holder in terms of availability and punctuality. Until December 2013, the vehicles have transported 40 million passengers in total with a punctuality of 99.9% over 11 million kilometers (, page “History 2000-now”).
The eight switches in the Shanghai route thus have proven to function well for 10 years. Hence, network formation is not a problem.
-  Web site: transrapid.de by Thyssenkrupp Transrapid, accessed July, 2nd 2014.
Comparison of material usage and environmental load of overhead lines versus long stator
One of the attendees had noticed the thickness of the stator cables in the Transrapid track. It was asked whether the thicker cables consume much more material than the overhead lines of conventional train. Questions were also raised about the environmental impact in using aluminum instead of copper wire.
Actually, the last two questions the easiest to answer. The Transrapid functions contactless. There is no wear of overhead wire and thus no metal disappears in the environment. During the life span of a stator cable, the overhead wires have to be replaced multiple times. And the metals from the stator cables can be fully recovered at the end of their service life. That makes the higher material usage and the type of material almost irrelevant, which is also reflected in the maintenance costs.
The long stator motor of the Transrapid contains three phase wires on either side of the track, in total 6 cables. Nexans has supplied 1000km medium voltage cable for the 30 km Transrapid track (total approx 58 km of guideway) in Shanghai (). The thickness of the cable compared to conventional overhead wire is visual deception. Half of the thickness is insulating material, the conductor itself is in Shanghai 300 mm
², a support cable of 150 mm
²and a reinforcement lead of another 150 mm
². Total 500 mm
². (). The materials for the attachment wires are not included in this figure.
The Dutch 25 kV catenary (B5 system) uses a support cable of 70 mm
², a contact wire of 120 mm
² copper silver, a feeder cable of 240 mm
² and a equipotentiaal lead of 240 mm
² aluminium (). Total 670 mm
², attachment wires not included.
The conductor material in the Transrapid stator cable is mainly driven by by metal prices, in principle, any conductor can be used. In Shanghai aluminium has been used. At the time of writing, aluminum is 3.8 times cheaper than copper and 25.2 times cheaper than silver ().
Catenary wires must however take mechanical contact into account and therefore are made of copper or copper silver.
Hence, the investment costs for the construction of a maglev line or HST do not differ much. While, from both, only the Transrapid is designed as regular intercity for daily use of all taxpayers, instead of the 60 times smaller elite using a high speed line. Also, the new maglev infrastructure creates opportunities for the railways and airports in a way that no high speed train can provide. So easy to see where our tax money would be spent to best on… Too bad that maglev trains have no lobby.**
-  Web site: Nexans.de, accessed July, 4th 2014.
-  Web site: wikipedia catenary, accessed July, 4th 2014.
-  Web site: energy supply catenary, accessed July, 4th 2014.
-  Web site: Metal spot prices, accessed July, 4th 2014.
-  Image source: Paper: New long stator winding (LSW) cable with Aero-Z conductor for high speed up with short round-trip time
Harald Buethe, Francois Daugny, Dr. Holger Fastabend, Dr. Dirk Steinbrink, Peter Zamzow,
Nexans Deutschland Industries GmbH & Co KG, Maglev Conference 2004, p7-4 Harald.Buethe.pdf
** PS: For those wanting to make a statement in support of Maglev trains, you can do so on the web site of the international maglev board, an organisation by and for experts and persons interested in Maglev trains trying to do the missing lobbying work.
Sorry, no translation available.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
At the invitation of Mr Friedrich Wilhelm Kugel the foundation visited Halver, located in the hills the German Sauerland. Mr. Kugel is director of the “Schleifkottenbahn GmbH”.
He has taken the initiative to put the local railway between Halver and Oberbrügge to renewed usage. The line was for the German railways no longer profitable to operate. The company of Mr. Kugel develops a transport concept with low cost, matching the low traffic volume.
He demonstrated their prototype “Schienentaxi” (rail taxi), an ultra-light-rail vehicle on call basis. The vehicle uses the bodywork of a model Mercedes bus and is battery powered. The batteries are charged with (in Germany omnipresent) eco-power and during downhill ride.
The conversion to steel-wheel undercarriage with electric drive and electronics is completely done with and by local entrepreneurs. A good example of thinking outside the box and how to innovate with limited resources. Perhaps a lesson for some experts whos thinking stay on the beaten track…
In Oberbrügge we visited an old signal house, kept in demonstration-ready condition. Given an explanation of the mechanical safety box. We also visited a rare sleeper wagon from the cold war, specially built for the U.S. military to travel to West Berlin. Re-equipped and in usable state. Thanks to Mr. Arnold for his expert explanation.
After the demonstrations and tour we had a welcome speech by the mayor of Halver and a press conference, together with the German Association GfM. As a guest, the foundation presented our vehicle designs and our new network plans for the Netherlands.
All in all it was a nice day. And we share the some cross-border economic regions with Germany. We thank Mr. Kugel and the GfM for the invitation.
Dutch weekly magazine “Intermediair” published a cover story on Maglev in edition #25, 2012.:
a new high speed revolution lures after half a century of failures
Amsterdam – Istanbul in 50 minutes
By car or train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven today is not faster than it was in the sixties. Flying over the Atlantic Ocean has become even slower. Faster transport methods failed one after the other. But a new technology promises a revolution – with 4,000 km per hour through a vacuum tube.
The article mentions Daryl Osters ETT (or is it ET3?) system as a promising development. The article also mentions Transrapid and Maglev in general as not a complete failure, despite not becoming the dominant technology it was once believed to be. It opposes that to Concorde that will never return to service, TGV as a dead-end and high speed trains in general as a matured development that will not go any faster than they already do.
Unfortunately, the article contains a number of disputable or incorrect statements (on maglevs).
To be specific, these are my personal comments on the article:
Lathen accident, silent death of an once promising technology
It’s a pity that the article emphasizes the Lathen 2006 accident again. The accident didn’t mark the end or failure of the Maglev technology. It merely painfully reminded us that even the safest technology can’t prevent some accidents from happening.
As a paradox, the accident also proved Maglev to be safer compared to conventional high speed rail as there is no such thing as wheel failure or derailment leading to horrific jack-knifed destruction of following cars as happened in the 1998 ICE Eschede accident. At comparable speed, in the Lathen accident only the first car of the Transrapid was demolished.
Hopefully the ET3 test track will not be abandoned as the one in Lathen now
The article hints at the decommission of the German Transrapid test facility in Lathen (TVE) as the death of the technology.
But in fact, the German government had approved Transrapid Maglev technology for commercial deployment as of 1991. After that the TVE was mostly retained for promotion, improvement and testing of newer vehicles, as well as training of staff during construction of commercial application routes.
Now the industry has no further need for tests as the latest vehicle generation is fully approved and (partly as a result of the credit crunch?) they don’t see a near term deployment of a maglev route, at least in Europe.
I wouldn’t say they gave up on it, as the industry is still holding on to its patents on the technology. Perhaps they hope to license it when the future brings a new opportunity?
Most important advantage of maglev is the absense of rolling resistance
I feel this has been over-emphasized by maglev promoters in the past. The rolling resistance is neglectable compared to aerodynamic resistance at high speeds. Only at low speeds, lack of rolling resistance is of any importance.
IMHO, other advantages of Maglevs are more important:
- highly reliable and weather-resistant vehicles and track (no broken overhead wires, autumn leafs, no service disruptions for a few cms of snow)
- no mechnical contact, so less maintance of track and vehicles
- less noisy compared to conventional trains (where panthograph and wheels are the most audible noise source; Maglev has neither)
- fast ac-/deceleration, allowing Maglevs to call at intercity distances like in the Netherlands, in contrast to high speed trains.
Discovery of superconductors made Maglev possible,
German Maglev used superconductors
Two mistakes in the article here. Maglev doesn’t require superconductors to work; any magnetic source will do. It was space age advancements in electronic controllers (microprocessors) that made Maglevs like Transrapid possible.
The German Transrapid only uses electromagnets.
Fastest existing train: TGV
The article mentions the TGV as the fastest existing train at 574 km/h. But actually that title belongs to the JR Maglev, at 581 km/h. Anyway, the TGV record used a heavily modified, shortened trainset with unconventional trackside changes. A normal, stock TGV trainset can’t run anywhere near that speed.
In fact, the fastest commercially operating existing train is a Maglev, the one in Shanghai (431 km/h).
Construction of maglev track is expensive
The article makes a somewhat out of context statement here. The construction of any high speed infrastructure is expensive, regardless of technology. Reduction in construction costs for Maglev over the last decades, compared to ever increasing costs for conventional high speed rail, makes Maglev more and more interesting. See http://namti.org/?page_id-275 for an American comparison. However it should be noted that in order to take ultimate advantage of maglev’s higher speed, the necessity of further minimizing curves can lead to substantial costs-tunnels, etc.
In some cases Maglev can already be competitive. For instance, the Dutch Ministery of Transport estimated in 2008 for the (now canned) 44km OV-SAAL project in the Amsterdam area:
- conventional rail costs (RER) to be 5.8 billion euro;
- and for Maglev 4.5 billion, despite being longer and unable to re-use any existing track in/near stations (!).
Reference (Dutch language only) “20082555 Eindrapport OV SAAL maart 2008_tcm195-215948.pdf”, Page 9
Note that the infrastructure component of both solutions makes up for roughly 3 billion.
ET3 costs would be low
The article suggests that ET3 construction costs would be low because the vehicles are light. I’m worried that the advantages might not pay out significantly, because:
- infrastructure ROW is a major part of the costs as with any project
- high speeds require stiff and precise construction, driving up the costs as with other high speed maglevs
- so far, superspeed maglevs only function when the propulsion is in the track. So little cost reduction there unless there will be a radical change in propulsion.
But I’m not too familiair with ET3. Perhaps Daryl Oster can make some comments on this.
There needs to be a technology that combines both magnetic propulsion principles
The article author failed to notice that there already is a magnetic propulsion technology that functions at both high and low speeds. Both superspeed Maglevs, Transrapid and JR Maglev, have their motor in the track instead of in the vehicle.
frame “Flying on rails” – seperate propulsion magnets
This part of the article gets some details on the Transrapid wrong. There are no seperate “propulsion magnets”; the electromagnets in the track make up the engine. Transrapid uses further electromagnets to hover and align the vehicle on the track. It works from standstill to max speed. There is no motor in the vehicle.
The Dutch newspaper “Volkskrant” of February 24, 2012 contained a submitted article by ir. Eric Winter on public transport in the Netherlands. He compares the current public transport system to a road network without highways. Imagine that all current traffic had to flow through local and provincial roads only; it would take many hours to traverse the country.
Yet that is exactly the state of the public transport, according to him. All stop, fast, intercity and freight trains travel through and from city to city on the same track, causing much time lost in mutual waiting. He therefore proposes a kind of express network for the public transport, enabling true high-speed transport between different regions of the Netherlands. The benefits would be much like how the highways greatly improve nationwide road travel.
For the Dutch situation, he sees Maglev as an ideal means of transport. It is very fast and can still stop on our intercity distances. The technique has become affordable and he proposes to build a little each year to be ready before the Olympic games of 2028. Once completed, this high-speed metro network would speed up travel times for any one travelling throughout the Netherlands, including car owners. As per one of his examples, a door-to-door trip from the city Groningen in the north to Eindhoven in the south would take 1 hour and 20 minutes as opposed to the current well over 3 and 4-hour trip by car respectively public transport. Finally this would be a real alternative to the car. And also very reliable, no problems with leaves, broken overhead wires or frozen points. With the permission of Eric Winter, we refer here to his brief presentation (Dutch language only), taken from his website.
The Foundation for Freedom of Mobility welcomes initiatives such as Eric Winter wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter if his ideas differ slightly from ours on details. We all pursue the same goal, and hey, the public even gets to choose from more ideas :-). It’s nice to see that other people are seriously thinking about solutions for the Dutch transport problem too.
Now we, all residents of the Netherlands, should convince the government that we really want better transport. That something akin to the “Deltaplan” waterworks is required for the public transport instead of piecemeal, low profile patches that don’t solve anything on the long run. Sign the petition at www.pro-maglev.net. For we are voters, and that is what the current politicians listen to.