PROJECT: Transrapid


  • The Emsland region is traditionally known to be a poor region in Germany
  • After the oil-crisis in 1973 the German industry was eager to open up new technology and infrastructure. 
  • There was a poor rail link between Berlin and Hamburg after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 
  • By that time the argument that the classical railway system was not modern (fast, clean, cheap) enough seemed logic.
  • An argument was to make use of the ‘speed gap’ between trains and planes (700 km/h)
  • French and Japanese High speed systems where growingly succesful. The German industry feared a technological disadvantage.
  • To research and develop further the idea of magnetic levitation and use this technology to stimulate economic progress.
  • To install a pilot range to also persuade the market of the makebilaty of the Transrapid system.
  • The creation of faster and better connections between Berlin and Hamburg. 
  • Since 1934 Germany owns the patent on a technology based on magnetic elevation.
  • An eager industrial cluster, persuasive key-figures with a good network and a political lobby within a pro-technique society.
  • German spatial and economic structure has ‘target-regions’ for the technology (dense agglomerations + big cities on 200 km distance from each other) 
  • A new transport technology that allows higher speeds and even lower energy consumption and maintenance needs.
  • Strong support within national government and the bigger political parties. 
  • A willing remoted region for the test track. (home of the ‘inventor’ of the technology) with cheap space and interest in an economical impulse.
  • A common believe of all parties that there is a big ‘cake’ to be shared.


  • To implement the new technology throughout the country and world (there have been plans to build a Transrapid in Nordrhein-Westfalen, a fast route between Hamburg and Berlin and the most recent one between Munich Airport and its city center)


  • The “Magnetbahn Transrapid” consortium is formed and work begins on the Test Facility in Emsland in 1978, in 1979 a first test track was shown on the international fair of transportation in Hamburg.
  • 1987 : Completion and commissioning of the Transrapid Test Facility in Emsland TVE.
  • The Hamburg-Berlin line was finally abandoned in 2000. Bavarian politicians decided the Transrapid wasn’t worth the €3 billion new calculations showed it would have cost. The system was sold to China.
  • In 2004, the first commercial implementation was completed. The Shanghai Maglev Train connects the rapid transit network 30.5 km to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. 
  • In 2006 23 people were killed on the Emsland test track due to a ‘human mistake’. This catastrophe marked the end of political support in Germany.
  • At the end of 2011, the operation license of the Emsland test track has expired, and it has been closed. Early 2012, the demolition and reconversion of all the Emsland site, including the factory, has been approved.

  • The building of the test range and the planning of the HH-Berlin trajectory created jobs. But not permanently.
  • The estimated effects (of the German government) of the HH-Berlin trajectory of 18.000 jobs during the building phase and the creation of 4.400 permanent jobs did not come out.
  • The end of the test track in Lathen also meant the loss of 60 permanent jobs. 
  • The region now plans a small center for electromobilty on the former site.
  • In a crucial period for the high-speed technology the Deutsche Bahn (DB) invested more money in the transrapid than in the ICE. Critics say that a concentration on one technology would have been better for the German industry and the DB.

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Project info




1969 - 2011


The vision to introduce a new generation of infrastructure as a follow up of the classical railway system did not work out. The classical railway system was competitive enough. The parallel development of Transrapid and ICE was a disadvantage for th




German Federal Ministry of Research, Transrapid International (joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp)