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Transrapid: The levitating train

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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- Following are some facts about the Transrapid high-tech train that crashed on a test run in Germany on Friday:

  • The Transrapid rides on magnetic levitation at speeds of up to 420 km/h (260 mph) on its 32-km (20 mile) long test track in Emsland, a remote area of Germany near the Dutch border.
  • It long held the record as the world's fastest train, hitting 450 km/h (280 mph) in a 1993 test.
  • Traveling at three times the speeds of conventional steel-wheel trains, the "mag-lev" Transrapid floats on a magnetic cushion one cm (half an inch) above a track that is elevated five to eight meters above the ground.
  • The Transrapid uses a tongue-and-groove construction that keeps the 110-tonne vehicle from leaving the track. Powerful electromagnets in the bracket-shaped undercarriage wrap around the sides of the guide way and hold the train in place.
  • The prototypes have logged hundreds of thousands of kilometers in trials on the track near Lathen. Because there are no wheels and no friction on the track, the train uses 33 percent less energy than Germany's high speed ICE trains.
  • Hundreds of thousands of tourists have paid to take rides on the train since such service began in 1995.
  • Attempts to build a commercial "mag-lev" line in Germany have repeatedly been blocked by environmentalists and other opponents, leaving projects on drawing boards.
  • There are proposals to build a Transrapid from Munich's airport to the city center and a decision is due in the fall. Another plan to link Hamburg and Berlin was scrapped.
  • China was the first country in the world to get the high-speed train. It takes less than eight minutes to travel the 30 km (19 mile) between Shanghai and its airport at a top speed of 430 km/h (267 mph), making it the world's fastest commercial train.
  • An experimental Japanese mag-lev train set the current speed record of 581 km/h (361 mph) on a test track near Tokyo in 2003.
  • On August 11, a fire broke out in an electrical compartment of the Shanghai mag-lev train as it headed towards the airport. It caused a lot of smoke but no one was injured.
  • It has been developed over the years by Siemens and Thyssen. National airline Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn have also worked on the project.
  • Reuters contributed to this report.

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    story.train.afp.gi.jpg

    A German-made Transrapid train at Shanghai airport.

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