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German Court Fines Men for Role in Train Crash

DW staff (win)May 23, 2008

A German court on Friday imposed fines on two supervisors for their role in a high-speed magnetic levitation train crash that claimed 23 lives on a German test track almost two years ago.

An aerial view of the smashed Transrapid train after the accident
The crash diminished chances for a Transrapid line in GermanyImage: AP

The court in the north-western city of Osnabrueck near where the accident occurred on Sept. 22, 2006, found the men guilty of causing death and injury through negligence.

It imposed fines of 24,000 and 20,000 euros ($38,000 and $31,000) respectively, in line with what prosecutors had demanded. Defense lawyers had urged the court to acquit the two men.

The high-speed Transrapid crashed into a 50-ton maintenance vehicle on the test track near Lathen in the Emsland region close to the Dutch border. Eleven people were injured.

It was traveling at 170 kilometers (105 miles) an hour and came to a halt after 500 meters with wreckage dangling over the sides of the elevated track.

Worst disaster in a decade

The driver was among those killed in the crash. It was Germany's worst rail disaster since 1998, when 101 people died when an express derailed and smashed into a bridge near the northern town of Eschede.

The two defendants were accused of failing to set out procedures for the use of a blocking system to prevent a train from entering a section of track when there is another vehicle on it.

An electronic blocking system was available at the test track, but was not activated at the time of the accident, according to experts.

No future in Germany

The maglev train was manufactured by Transrapid International, a joint company of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp, which was disbanded earlier this year.

The only Transrapid in commercial service operates in China between downtown Shanghai and the city's airport. The German city of Munich considered a similar link, but the project was dropped because of the cost.

Magnetic-levitation systems use high-power magnets to glide the trains along the tracks without friction at speeds of up to 450 kilometers per hour.