A Transrapid maglev train traveling on the system’s test track in Lathen near the Netherlands border in Germany collided with a maintenance vehicle on the track, killing 23 people and severely injuring 10, according to Karl-Heinz Brueggeman, a spokesman for the rescue effort.
The driverless train was estimated as operating at above 120 mph when the crash occurred around 9:30 a.m. local time. The unmanned train with 31 passengers aboard crashed into a maintenance wagon containing 2 workers.
The train traveled about 0.6 miles from its departure station when it struck the maintenance vehicle. Debris from the accident was spread over a 984-feet section of track.
Police spokesman Hans Kley confirmed that the Transrapid train did not leave the track, which is elevated approximately 16 feet above the ground. Other reports indicate that the train’s roof was torn off in the collision.
Rescue workers used ladder trucks from local fire departments to evacuate the stopped train.
On hearing of the crash, Germany’s Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee suspended his trip in China and made preparations to return to Germany to view the accident scene.
The 20-mile test system in Germany was built by a consortium of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp. It has been in operation since 1984 and is regularly used by tour groups for demonstration runs four days per week. Transrapid trains are capable of speeds up to 280 mph.
This crash is the first on the system that included fatalities; analysts so far attribute the cause of the accident to a lack of communications between the train operators and the maintenance employees. The only commercial installation of Transrapid technology in service is currently the Shanghai Maglev Train linking Shanghai Metro Line 2’s Longyang Road station to Pudong International Airport.