Tehran's Transrapid Plans German Magnetic Train for Iranian Pilgrims

Iran is planning to build a magnetic elevated train line linking Tehran and an important pilgrimage site. It has asked a Munich-based engineering firm to prepare a feasiblity study.

Transrapid could soon be transporting pilgrims from Tehran to Mashhad.

Transrapid could soon be transporting pilgrims from Tehran to Mashhad.

Germany's high-tech railway manufacturer Transrapid could have a new international customer: Iran. Tehran wants to build a rail link to an important pilgrimage site, and has asked a Munich-based engineering company to prepare a feasibility study for the project, Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports Tuesday.

The company, Regierungsbaumeister Schlegel, is to look into whether it will be possible to build the 800-kilometer track, director Harald Späth told the newspaper. He said he had met with the Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Akhondzadeh, and his economics attaché in Berlin last Tuesday.

The Iranian government is prepared to finance the project to the tune of $1.5 billion in start-up capital. The new train line would transport between 12 and 15 million pilgrims a year from the capital to Mashhad in the north east of the country. A Transrapid link would make the 800-kilometer journey possible in between two and three hours.

The Transrapid elevated monorail train is propelled at speeds of up to 450 km/h (270 mph) by a frictionless electromagnetic system. It was developed by Transrapid International, a joint venture between Siemens and ThyssenKrupp.

The Iran project's origins lie in business contacts that were struck during a visit to Tehran by the former Bavarian economics minister Otto Wiesheu in May 2004, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. Wiesheu, who is now a member of the management board at Deutsche Bahn, said the Iran project is still at a very early stage. "Iran is undoubtedly a difficult country," he told the newspaper. "But I hope that the circumstances and the international relations will improve once more," referring to the country's controversial nuclear program.

Wiesheu feels the Transrapid project has a shot and is convinced economics sanctions against Tehran won't get in the way. "The transport of pilgrims in Iran is certainly not a project that is covered by the political boycott measures."

The Bavarian economics ministry confirmed that it had supported Schlegel in its bid to secure the feasibility study contract. The engineering firm has previously been involved in planning a new Munich airport and a high-speed ICE rail track linking Munich and Nuremberg.



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