The Velaro is the youngest member of Siemens' family of high-speed trains. Photo: Yrithinnd,, Creative Commons
Reading The Transrapid's political agony lasted for a long time, but finally it came to a halt: There will be no commercially used high-speed train in Germany, which became clear in March of this year, when Bavaria renounced the costly new line to Munich Airport. But that did not mean the end of rail travel far beyond 300 km in Europe. Rather, the great era of high-speed trains is yet to come: in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia and Sweden, more than 10, 000 railway kilometers will be created by 2025, the science magazine "bild der wissenschaft" reports in its August issue. The necessary traction technology is developed primarily in France and Germany. For a long time the transrapid on magnetic fields was a prerequisite for high speed in rail traffic, development on rail has long since caught up with this lead. Already in 1990 a prototype of the TGV of the French manufacturer Alstrom had a top speed of 515.3 kilometers per hour reached. The Transrapid itself did not even come close to the magic 500 limit three years later with 450 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, the TGV has reached 574.8 kilometers per hour and is no longer far from the actual world record for trains of 581 kilometers per hour, held since 2003 by the test vehicles of the Japanese maglev JR-Maglev.

The near-immeasurable increasing demand for power at such speeds is one of the core problems in developing high-speed economical trains: when the speed doubles, air resistance quadruples and the power required for the drive increases eightfold. Even the best of engineering can not change these physical principles. "If I do not want to have seatless drive vehicles, the capacity is limited to the top, " explains Wolfgang Fengler, a professor at the Institute of Railway Systems of the TU Dresden in "Bild der wissenschaft" the dilemma.

Nevertheless, in trains such as the French TGV and the ICE of the German manufacturer Siemens and its further developments, the highest speeds are already part of everyday life: the TGV and the ICE 3 already reach planned speeds of 320 kilometers per hour on some routes. From 2009, the Velaro E, the latest series product from the Siemens family, is scheduled to run between Madrid and Barcelona at 350 kilometers per hour.

The energy consumption, the capacity of passengers and thus the economic efficiency are of equal concern to the developers in Germany and France. The ICE as well as the Velaro E can boast plus points in terms of passenger capacity: unlike the French TGV, it can do without its own power cars. The drives are rather in every second car under the passenger compartments. "With the same train length, we can carry 20 percent more people than the competition. That means we are driving more economically, "says a pleased Siemens rail technology manager Jürgen Model in" bild der wissenschaft ". display

In the successor to the TGV, but only from 2011 in Italy scheduled AGV running, the French competition at Alstrom have resolved this shortcoming. On top of that, the AGV, which is up to 360 kilometers per hour in normal operation, should consume 15 percent less energy than its main competitors.

The potential in the market for such trains is enormous: According to the International Union of Railways (UIC), a total of 8, 300 kilometers of high-speed lines are currently under construction worldwide, and another 18, 800 kilometers are being planned. Once again China is at the forefront of the forecast growth rates, with 12, 000 kilometers to be created in the next 15 years alone. In Europe, a total of more than 10, 000 kilometers will be added to the current 5, 500 kilometers by 2025.

Helping trains to reduce fuel consumption on these high-speed lines is one goal that also engages German research institutes: "Next Generation Train" (NGT) is the name of this project, which is now being used by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Wants to profile rail. "Thanks to lightweight construction and double-decker alignment, we can reduce energy consumption, " explains Sigfried Loose, Group Manager Vehicle Aerodynamics at the Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology. The aim of the researchers are trains with the energy consumption of an ICE 3, but which are 100 kilometers per hour faster than the current top model of the Deutsche Bahn.

To get closer to this goal, the aerodynamics of such a move must be thoroughly understood. After all, the train has to stay clean at tempo 400 without taking off. A longer muzzle and wing stumps could give the trains sufficient traction despite the lightweight construction, Loose explains in "bild der wissenschaft". Of course, a lot of development work is needed before the first double-decked NGT will fly through Europe. After all, not only speed and economy should be improved, but also comfort for travelers.

ddp / Ulrich Dewald

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