One dead in German train crash

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A high-speed magnetic train went off a test track in northwestern Germany today, killing one person and injuring up to 25 others, some of them seriously, police said.

The train, carrying 29 people, apparently hit an obstacle on the tracks, police spokesman Martin Ratermann said. Firefighters were using ladders to reach the injured at the accident site on an elevated track.

The accident is another blow to hopes for the magnetic-levitation technology after a fire on one such train in Shanghai last month. The trains can reach speeds of up to 270 miles per hour.

It was not immediately clear how fast the train was travelling at the time of the accident in Germany.

The Transrapid magnetic train came off the elevated tracks in the town of Lathen at around 10.05am, police spokesman Helge Nestler said.

"The magnetic levitation train is hanging halfway off [the track]" , Nestler said, adding that passengers were still inside.

Nestler gave the number of injured as 25, while another regional police department said 21 people were hurt.

The Transrapid train is made by Transrapid International, a joint company of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp. The track, which runs between the towns of Lathen and Doerpen near the border with the Netherlands, is operated by Munich-based IABG. Officials from Transrapid International referred questions to IABG, where officials could not immediately be reached.

German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee postponed a trip to China to get a firsthand look at the accident site, spokesman Dirk Inger said.

Magnetic-levitation trains use powerful magnets to float the trains just above the tracks, allowing them to glide along without friction. Trains can reach 270 miles per hour) on the 20-mile test track.

The technology has been around for years but so far has not caught on as conventional train networks have expanded steadily. Concerns include the amount of electricity the trains use at high speed and the precision with which the tracks must be built.

The technology's image was not helped by a fire that broke out in an electrical storage compartment aboard Shanghai's magnetic-levitation train as it travelled toward the city's international airport on 11 August, generating large amounts of smoke but causing no injuries.

The Shanghai system is the world's only commercially operating maglev train. Officials are studying the possibility of a line between Munich and the city's airport.