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New Magnetic Floating Trains 2006-03-07

Posted by clype in Gizmo, Scotland.

An high-speed train which would harness the power of magnetism to hurtle passengers from Edinburgh to Glasgow in 12 minutes could be built alongside the M8, the head of Britain’s largest transport firm said.

The Chief Executive of FirstGroup Mr.Moir Lockhead said a 300 mph magnetic levitation — or ‘Maglev’ — must be considered along with conventional ‘bullet trains’ for the next generation of high-speed rail projects in Britain.
The Chief Executive of FirstGroup, whose Aberdeen-based firm runs First ScotRail, said Scotland and the rest of the UK was in the unique position of being able to leapfrog current train technology and go for the ‘Maglev’ option. A ‘Maglev’ link between Edinburgh and Glasgow is estimated by ‘UK Ultraspeed’, the promoters of a Glasgow/London line, to cost 1 800 million GBP plus the cost of the land required.

A conventional bullet train, along the lines of the French ‘TGV’, would cost 1 500 million GBP/4 000 million GBP.

‘Maglev’ would run on a separate guideway and might not serve city centres because of the extra cost, while bullet trains could run on existing rail lines that would enable better interchange with other trains. However, ‘Maglev’ could reach 311 mph (500 km/h) compared to 220 mph (350 km/h) for bullet trains.

Rail industry leaders backing bullet trains, including former Virgin Trains chief executive Mr.Chris Green, formed a lobby group, ‘Greengauge21’, in 2006-01, partly to counter the proponents of ‘Maglev’, who claim to have the ear of The Prime Minister Mr.Tony Blair. Mr.Rod Eddington, the former chief executive of ‘British Airways’, has been commissioned by the government to study such future transport projects and is due to report this year. The Chief Executive of FirstGroup told a conference in Glasgow yesterday:


Mr. Moir Lockhead
‘We have a unique opportunity to study both options and evaluate the benefits and costs of each.

‘Whatever the preferred solution, it will provide a genuine increase in rail capacity as well as shrinking the distance between our major cities.

‘Edinburgh to Glasgow in 12 minutes might be attractive.’

The Chief Executive of FirstGroup said the line could follow the M8 rather than a separate route to minimise the extra land required, especially as the motorway runs close to Glasgow city centre.

‘UK Ultraspeed’ proposes a London/Glasgow line that would skirt round Edinburgh, with an interchange at Millerhill, on its south-east edge, and also serve Edinburgh airport.

But The Chief Executive of FirstGroup said a centre-to-centre line between Edinburgh and Glasgow should not be ruled out.

The ‘Maglev’ guideway could be elevated up to 20m to minimise the land required.

The Chief Executive of FirstGroup became a fan of ‘Maglev’ after visiting the only operating system in the world, which links Shanghai to its airport in China. It runs at 267mph over a 19-mile route that opened in 2003. The transport chief said at the time:

‘Seeing really is believing with this revolutionary technology.

‘I didn’t believe a surface railway could travel at 500km/h without wheels until I travelled on the “Maglev”.

‘The UK does not have a European-style high-speed network and so is in an almost unique position to leapfrog ahead.

‘We are well placed to look 20/30 years ahead and ask “‘is this the technology for us?”.’

‘Maglev’ uses technology that was another British transport breakthrough — like tilting trains — which was perfected abroad.

Trains float on, and are propelled by, their guideway’s powerful magnetic field. A variable electric current would provide propulsion and braking.

Professor Mr.Eric Laithwaite, of Imperial College London, demonstrated its potential in the 1950s and the world’s first passenger-carrying ‘Maglev’ linked Birmingham airport with a nearby rail station in 1984. It was scrapped ten years ago because of unreliability.

Critics have urged caution because of ‘Maglev’s’ limited use to date and several planned schemes in Germany have been scrapped because of their cost. Mr.Iain Docherty, a transport expert at Glasgow University, has said:

‘Britain would bear a lot of the risk to be the first to adopt it on a large scale.’

A high-speed rail report by ‘The Institution of Civil Engineers’ last year note:

‘As a technology, “Maglev” is still in its infancy, and only viable if trains are not needed to also run on the existing steel rail network.’


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