Berlin is set to rekindle old tech with a “magnetic levitation train”. Announced by Dirk Stettner of the CDU parliamentary group, which shares power in Berlin with the SPD party, the new monorail will begin with a test track over five to seven kilometres and is expected to cost up to 85 million euros (92.7 million U.S. dollars).
With high green credentials, it could help the city-state meet 2045’s climate neutral target and will be paid for through a special climate fund.
Where and when?
The exact route for the project has not yet been confirmed. However, the CDU has been arguing in favour of bringing back maglevs and has advocated for a Brandenburg (BER) airport connection. Given that the state’s ultimate aim is to develop the same track into passenger and freight transportation, an airport connection makes sense.
No due date has been confirmed yet either but, given the relatively low cost and speed with which maglev rails can be built, the train could be up and running in about two years.
What is magnetic levitation?
Magrail trains are lifted off rails and moved with magnets, reducing friction. There is renewed interest around the world in magnetic levitation applications, especially since Elon Musk and SpaceX began advance the profile of research into Hyperloop systems.
Italy’s state rail manager, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, is partnering with Musk-darlings Polish university start-up Nevomo to develop a way to add maglev tech to existing lines.
Meanwhile, Shanghai, China uses Transrapid technology, developed in Germany, in its monorail system that can attain speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph). Maglevs can also be found elsewhere in Asia, in Japan and South Korea.
The last time Berliners saw a so-called “maglev” train in action was over 30 years ago, with a 1984 trial and the three-stop, 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) “M-Bahn” or Magnetbahn passenger line that ran between 1989 to 1991, meeting a transport need that was deemed no longer relevant when the Berlin Wall fell. Eventually the underground was expanded in its place.
But maglevs are far faster to implement than undergrounds, are able to be operated without drivers, and are now a proven entity. Despite failed German projects in the 1990s and 2000s, combined with today’s high speed rail infrastructure, maglev trains could prove an effective part of a mixed city transport menu.
Berlin’s Senator for Mobility Manja Schreiner told local media that it is important to “think about every form of transportation in a growing city.” The maglev train is an “innovative project for the future,” she added.