Lathen train collision

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Lathen train collision
Details
Date 22 September 2006
Time 9:30 am
Location Lathen, Lower Saxony
Country Germany
Rail line Lathen - Dörpen test track
Operator Transrapid International
Type of incident Collision
Cause Human error
Statistics
Trains 1 + MOW vehicle
Deaths 23
Injuries 11

The Lathen train collision occurred on 22 September 2006 when a Transrapid magnetic levitation (or "maglev") train collided with a maintenance vehicle near Lathen, Germany, killing 23 people. This was the first ever fatal accident on a maglev train.

The Transrapid[edit]

File photo of a Transrapid train on its test track

The Transrapid 08 was still doing trial runs, but it did carry passengers along a 31.8-kilometre (19.8 mi) test track to demonstrate the maglev technology.[1] The Emsland test track runs from Lathen, near where the accident occurred, to Dörpen, with a loop at each end. Speeds of up to 450 km/h (280 mph) are reached on the test track.[1]

Maglev trains use powerful magnets to keep them just above the tracks. Currently the only Transrapid maglev in commercial operation is a Transrapid line in Shanghai, linking Pudong International Airport with the outskirts of the city.

The accident[edit]

The accident occurred on the morning of 22 September 2006 about 1 km (0.62 mi) away from Lathen on a section of elevated track at about 09:30 CEST.[1][2] A (wheeled) maintenance vehicle was moving on the tracks to check them for debris, and the Transrapid train hit the maintenance vehicle at approximately 200 km/h (125 mph), resulting in the partial derailment of the Transrapid and severe damage to both vehicles. The roof of the train was partially sliced off, and wreckage was spread over a 401-metre-long section of the track.

There were twenty-three fatalities and ten severe injuries.[3] The passengers on the train were a combination of employees at Transrapid, workers from a nursing care company and workers from local utility company RWE. The two-man crew of the maintenance vehicle were among the survivors.

Emergency response[edit]

Firefighters used turntable ladders and aerial platforms to reach the wreckage, which was 4 metres (13 ft) above ground level.

Immediate aftermath[edit]

Immediately after the accident, German transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee held an emergency meeting with representatives from Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp, the two companies jointly responsible for the Transrapid. He commented afterwards that "major safety failings" were the clear cause of the accident, and that two key questions that required answers were "Whether the Transrapid's safety measures were adequate, and whether they were applied on the test track" where the accident took place.[4] He also promised an independent inquiry.[4]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel left a conference in Berlin in order to attend the scene.[5] Wu Xiangming, head of the Shanghai maglev project, also visited the scene.[4]

Investigation[edit]

German authorities conducted an investigation into the accident. Head of operators at the test track operator, IABG, Rudolf Schwarz said, "This accident would not have been possible if all regulations were adhered to." According to IABG, the crew of the maintenance vehicle, which clears the test track of debris and dirt every morning, was supposed to call the line dispatcher by radio once the work was finished. German police, therefore, suspected human error as the likely cause of the accident. Prosecutors have obtained and examined radio transcripts from the vehicles involved.[1]

In May 2008, a court in the city of Osnabrück concluded that the tragedy was caused by a chain of human errors, including the failure to set an electronic braking system that would have prevented the train from operating while maintenance work was being carried out. Two staff members were found guilty on 23 counts of manslaughter and 11 counts of causing negligent injury, and were fined 24,000 and 20,000 euros respectively. A third defendant was unable to take part in the trial because of suicide fears.[6][7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Deadly crash on German monorail". BBC News. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2006.
  2. ^ "21 killed in magnetic train crash". CNN. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  3. ^ "Ermittlungen nach schwerem Transrapid-Unfall im Emsland". NDR Online. Retrieved 23 September 2006.
  4. ^ a b c Deppa, Julia (24 September 2006)."German Minister Holds Emergency Talks Into Transrapid Train Crash". TerraDaily. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 4 March 2007.
  5. ^ "German maglev train crash leaves at least 23 dead". Taipei Times. 24 September 2006. Retrieved 4 March 2007.
  6. ^ Parkin, Brian (23 May 2008). "German Court Fines Two Transrapid Supervisors After Fatal Crash". Bloomberg (New York). Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  7. ^ "Two convicted for German Transrapid deaths". Independent Online (South Africa). 23 May 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°52′28″N 7°21′05″E / 52.87444°N 7.35139°E / 52.87444; 7.35139