Berlin affirms support for Transrapid after crash

25th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

25 September 2006, BERLIN - Senior Berlin officials affirmed their support Sunday for Germany's futuristic magnetic-levitation (maglev) train project, two days after the prototype crashed, killing 23 people. After some media said that the disaster spelled the end of the three-decade-old project, often criticized for its enormous expense, Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said: "That would be premature and inappropriate." Backed by politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's own Christian Democrats, the

25 September 2006

BERLIN - Senior Berlin officials affirmed their support Sunday for Germany's futuristic magnetic-levitation (maglev) train project, two days after the prototype crashed, killing 23 people.

After some media said that the disaster spelled the end of the three-decade-old project, often criticized for its enormous expense, Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said: "That would be premature and inappropriate."

Backed by politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's own Christian Democrats, the Social Democratic minister said he would instead ask consultants to recommend ways to fix the new technology's vulnerability to human error.

"We must ensure that such a disaster never happens again," he said.

Prosecutors said earlier that their inquiry was focussing on why two control-room staff had let the Transrapid train travel at 180 kilometres an hour along a test track blocked by a maintenance vehicle.

The prosecutors, who have opened a probe into possible homicide by negligence, have not yet interrogated the two control-room staff, who are reported to be psychologically at a low ebb.

Tiefensee said in Berlin that the operators admitted to him there had been a problem putting safety procedures into practice.

Prosecutors said there was no prospect that testing of the Transrapid, which hovers on a cushion of magnetism, would resume soon. The collision site at Lathen, north-west Germany has been sealed off and the only train, codenamed TR08, is badly damaged.

Supporters say a planned maglev link between Munich city and its airport could be equipped with advanced safety features that were not installed at Lathen.

A prototype train for that line, the TR09, is still being built. But only about half the necessary funding has been pledged. Bavaria state and the federal government said they will proceed next month with negotiations on more funding.

At Lathen, Catholic and Lutheran pastors led prayers in their parish churches Sunday for the 23 killed and 10 injured. Hundreds of local people, many traumatized by seeing the crash site, attended the Sunday services.

An ecumenical memorial service is planned in Lathen Wednesday.

The Transrapid consortium, composed of major engineering companies Siemens and ThyssenKrupp, has only ever built one maglev line for commercial use, in Shanghai, China. That project was subsidized by the German government and talks are under way on extending the line.

DPA

Subject: German news

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