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Maglev technology still safe says proponents

High speed rail firm UK Ultraspeed this week continued to back maglev technology for the proposed north south rail link, despite the accident in Germany last month.
But London Continental Railways (LCR), also interested in building the 840km line, high speed rail link said using heavy rail is cheaper and better for communities. Last month's accident on the 32km test track in Emsland, Germany, killed 23 people when a Transrapid maglev train, crashed into the back of service vehicle mistakenly left on the track. Operator IABG claimed this was the result of human error (NCE last week).China, the home of the world's only commercial maglev last week sent a delegate team to the site of the accident to learn from the tragedy.Maglev, short for magnetic levitation, is a futuristic transport system, developed 100 years ago, that allows trains to hover a few centimetres above a track or 'guideway.' Without wheel friction and with greater stability the trains can reach speeds of 500km/h.But it has failed to take off. Lines in the Netherlands, Germany and America have been abandoned when the cost of construction was realised.Maglev technology requires a completely separate infrastructure network meaning trains cannot pass to existing domestic lines.A spokesman for Ultraspeed said 'The estimated total capital cost of the 840km, including land acquisition, is £29bn.'Chancellor Gordon Brown estimated a cost of £66bn for the same work.It is expected that Sir Rod Eddington's upcoming report on the strategic economic importance of transport will determine the future of Maglev in the UK.jon.young@emap.com

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