At least 25 killed in magnetic train crash in Germany

Germany's prestigious Transrapid high-speed magnetic train ran into a maintenance wagon on a test track in the north-west of the country yesterday, killing up to 25 people and injuring 10 others in the worst accident in the vehicle's 35-year history.

Police said the Transrapid, which floats on a monorail using a magnetic levitation system, was travelling at 120mph when it crashed, catapulting many of the 29 passengers on board through the front panorama windows of the driverless train and causing two fires to break out immediately.

A police spokesman, Martin Ratermann, in Emsland, the district where the 30km (19-mile) test track is located, said late yesterday that the death toll rose to 25 after more searches in and around the train, which crashed about a kilometre from the station at the village of Melstrup.

Hermann Broering, a district councillor, said that 10 other passengers had been taken to hospital where they were being treated for their injuries, some of which were serious.

Television pictures of the scene showed fire crews struggling to enter smashed carriages that were balanced on a section of track raised some five metres off the ground.

Sections of the train's wreckage littered the area and ambulances were busy ferrying the injured to local hospitals in the surrounding area.

One eyewitness told Germany's N24 television channel that the train rammed the maintenance wagon, pushing it some 700 metres down the track before coming to a halt."As soon as the train stopped, fires broke out. The front of the train was completely destroyed," he said.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, left a conference in Berlin and arrived near the scene by helicopter. Wearing black, she said her thoughts were with the victims. "I want to show that I am with them," she said.

She declined to talk about what effect the accident would have on Germany's maglev technology industry and whether it would affect plans for future lines. "Today we are in mourning," she said.

In May, Ms Merkel travelled to China to tout economic ties with the country, and went for a ride on the maglev train that links Shanghai's Pudong International Airport with the city's financial district.

Rudolf Schwarz, of the IABG company which runs the test track, said that human error appeared to have caused the crash.

"We are absolutely devastated by what has happened and we will be doing everything possible to find out exactly what caused the crash," said Mr Schwarz.

Some reports said the dead included relatives of the Transrapid test-track's employees who had been invited to go on a company-sponsored ride.

More than 250,000 passengers have used the train since it was set up as a tourist attraction and testing site in 1989.

The news of the crash prompted Wolfgang Tiefensee, the federal Transport Minister, to break off a visit to China.His ministry said he was " deeply concerned" and was making straight for the scene to console relatives of the dead and injured.

This was Germany's worst rail disaster since 1998, when 101 people died after an InterCityExpress derailed and smashed into a bridge near the northern town of Eschede in what remains the country's deadliest train crash.

The incident is expected to deal a serious blow to Germany's hopes of fully developing the Transrapid as a viable form of rail transport at home and as an export. The train, which is capable of record-breaking speeds above 280mph, only operates commercially in China where it provides the link between Shanghai airport and the city centre. Last month a fire broke out on one of the Shanghai trains, raising concerns for its safety.

Yesterday's crash will also have ramifications closer to home as the idea of introducing the high-speed "maglev" train to Britain has been championed vociferously by the Conservative Party. Last month, the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, while on a visit to Japan, warned that the UK was lagging behind other countries' high-technology transport links. He said: "Part of competing means having a transport system that was not built in the 19th century but is suitable to the age in which we're living."

Cliff Perry, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, said: "The overall impression caused by maglev accidents at this stage is that of a technology which is still in its infancy, with some indications that its robustness is not yet fully proven."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16k - £22k

£16000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Managed Services-£80,000 OTE

£45000 - £80000 per annum + £80,000 OTE + Car,benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Busine...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital