Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Maglev Maniacs

Cheryl passes on to me this story about Bavaria building a maglev link to their airport. Upon first reading, you might think I'd say "Great! Another high speed train! Trains are great!" But in fact, I think this one is a really stupid idea, just like the Shanghai maglev referenced in the article. (The CEO of my company has been on that Shanghai system; he was telling me about it a while back when I happened to be seated with him at the Company Christmas lunch.)

I'm lukewarm about maglev systems in all cases, because they can't share existing railway infrastructure. This means you can't build a high-speed line that shares the legacy tracks into existing stations, which significantly increases the cost of construction. Also, thanks to imovements in conventional railway technology, maglev is not really that much faster than existing steel-on-steel high-speed systems. The new TGV line will run at up to 350 kph in opearation, and came close to beating the maglev speed record in a test run earlier this year.

In any event, if you insist on building maglev systems, then why build a system where the stops are so close together that you never get a decent benefit out of it? Maglev speeds are so high that you should be thinking of stops hundreds of kilometers apart, not dozens like an airport-to-city-center line. Although I still think it's a dumb idea, a maglev between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is (ahem) on the right track, distance-wise.

Munich would be better served by a more conventional railway link between airport and city center, running on relatively short headways at fast, but not necessarily hyper-fast speeds.
Tags: maglev, railroad
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