But now, following a crisis meeting in Berlin on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee announced, "The magnetic-levitation railway project in Munich has failed."
The plans were spiked for reasons of expense. Financing for the project had been based on a 2002 feasibility study which concluded the maglev line could be completed for 1.85 billion ($2.9 billion). On Thursday, though, the companies involved in the project announced that it would cost over 3 billion to build.
The project, which had already threatened to falter on financial grounds, seemed to be back on track after the federal government agreed last September to contribute half of the construction costs, but specified a maximum of 925 million. The state of Bavaria wasn't willing to invest more than 500 million.
The Transrapid was considered a prestige project for the Christian Social Union (CSU), the party which has formed the government in Bavaria for most of the state's post-war history. All other major parties as well as nature conservationists have been critical of the project from the outset, calling it overly-expensive and unnecessary. Now they're gloating over their victory.
"It has been obvious for a long time that the Transrapid would be significantly more expensive than the official figure of 1.85 billion," said Theresa Schopper, chairwoman for the Green Party in Bavaria. "But the CSU didn't want to recognize that and clung to the magnetic nonsense."
The proposed 40 kilometer (24.9 mile) track would have been the second commercial use of the Transrapid technology worldwide. Shanghai inaugurated the first on New Year's Day of 2002. Transrapid trains have been running since 1984 at a test track in the western German region of Emsland. A tragic accident at that facility on Sept. 22, 2006 -- which saw a Transrapid train slam into a maintenance car on the tracks -- resulted in the deaths of 23 people.
There have been several proposed Transrapid projects in Germany, all of which have failed due to the high costs involved in the technology. The furthest developed of these -- between Hamburg and Berlin -- ran aground in the mid-nineties.
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