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Twenty-three dead in German maglev crash

Major setback for flying-train technology

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A high-speed magnetic levitation train has crashed on a test track in north-west Germany, killing 23 and injuring 10 others.

The Transrapid train crashed into a maintenance vehicle this morning, about one kilometer after leaving a station, according to a local police spokesman. The train was left hanging off the elevated track, police said.

Transrapid's 31.5km (20 mile) test track is now the only maglev system in Europe, although maglevs are carrying passengers in both China and Japan - Transrapid's one commercial line links Shangai airport with the city's financial district, moving passengers at up to 500kmh (310mph) to cover 35km in just eight minutes.

Environmentally clean, but hugely expensive to build, maglevs use the repulsive force generated between magnets or electromagnets to lift the vehicle. Most forms of the technology (including Transrapid) also use a magnetic linear motor for propulsion.

Maglev technology was first used commercially in the UK, with a low speed shuttle linking Birmingham airport to its railway station. However, that system was replaced by a pulley-based shuttle in 1995, after 11 years of operation.

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