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Decision Day on Magnetic Railway

Germany's transportation minister will reveal this weekend which German state will get billions in federal funding for a German-developed high-speed railway that has only been realized in China.


Which direction is the train headed?

After months spent watching the Chinese begin construction on a hi-speed magnetic railway, Germany’s government is no longer willing to stand by and watch.

Transportation Minister Kurt Bodewig of the ruling social democratic party said he planned to announce on Saturday whether Bavaria or the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia would get the 2.3 billion euro the German government is allocating for the construction of a magnetic levitation railway.

German technology, Chinese initiative

The announcement will end months of speculation on which way Berlin was leaning in awarding the prestigious project.

The magnetic levitation technology was actually developed by German firms Siemens and ThyssenKrupp. But the companies sold it to the Chinese in January 2001 after on-again, off-again attempts at building the railway in Germany.

The furthest the Germans got was a 31.5 kilometer test track in the state of Lower Saxony, where officials could see the advantages of the technology.

The trains are able to go from 0 to 400 km per hour in less than three minutes. With a top speed of 500 km per hour it is able to bring passengers from Munich to Hamburg in about two hours.

Going head-to-head

For the time being, though, plans have been small. Bavaria plans to build a 36.8 km track from Munich to their new airport at the cost of 1.6 billion euro.

North Rhine-Westphalia needs roughly double that amount to build a commuter rail from Düsseldorf through Essen to Dortmund, a length of roughly 74 kilometers.

Debate on where the railway should go has mostly been split along party lines. Bavaria’s transportation minister, Otto Wiesheu of the conservative Christian Social Union has accused Bodewig of favoring North Rhine-Westphalia because the social democrats and Green party are in power there as on the federal level.

Wiesheu has been adamant in his desire to bring federal funding to Bavaria for the project. But his pitch is complicated by a decision this week by Munich’s city council against the railway’s construction.

Surprisingly, it was the social democrats and greens who came out against the railway, saying that it would take money away from other, more dire transportation projects.

Bodewig says he still considers Bavaria a contender, despite the council’s decision.

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