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German Magnetic Train Derails, Killing 1

22 September, 2006

A high-speed magnetic train derailed on a test track in northwestern Germany Friday, killing one person and injuring up to 25 others, some of them seriously, police said. The accident is another blow to hopes for the magnetic-levitation technology, which can carry people at speeds of up to 270 mph.

The Transrapid magnetic train went off the tracks in the town of Lathen at around 10:05 a.m. local time (4:05 a.m. EDT), police spokesman Helge Nestler said.

"The magnetic levitation train is hanging halfway off" the track, Nestler said, adding that passengers were still inside.

Nestler gave the number of injured as 25, while another regional police department said 21 people were hurt.

German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee postponed a trip to China to get a firsthand look at the accident site, spokesman Dirk Inger said.

Magnetic-levitation trains use electrically charged magnets to cause the trains to hover just above the tracks, allowing them to glide along without friction. Trains can reach 270 mph on the 20-mile test track.

The technology has been around for years but so far has not caught on as conventional train networks have expanded steadily.

The technology's image was not helped by a fire that broke out in an electrical storage compartment aboard Shanghai's magnetic-levitation train as it was headed toward the city's international airport Aug. 11, generating large amounts of smoke but causing no injuries.

The Shanghai system is the world's only commercially operating maglev train. Officials are studying the possibility of a line between Munich and the city's airport.

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