Lathen train collision


On 22 September 2006 , 23 people died on the Transpid maglev(magnetic levitation) train collided with a maintenance vehicle in Lathen, Germany. The train carried a minimum of 29 people and slammed the vehicle at a speed of 170 kmph and ended up scattering wreckage, seats and clothing, along the elevated concrete track.

Image 1: Picture of a Transpid Maglev vehicle on tracks

Chain of incidents

  • Every morning, a diesel powered vehicle maintenance vehicle ran along the tracks to check for debris. When its task was over, it would wait in front of the last switch. There were two workers on the maintenance vehicle. They radioed the line dispatcher for clearance to leave the track but did not get a response. They were unaware of a test run of the maglev train scheduled on that morning half an hour earlier than usual.
  • There was no communication established between the line dispatcher and the maintenance vehicle and thus they were not informed about the maglev which would be running on the track later on. The train started moving at 09:53 AM and 57 seconds later, emergency braking was recorded. Approximately half a second and 25 metres later the maglev train hit the maintenance vehicle at a speed of 162 kmph.
  • The aerodynamic design of the Transrapid train caused it to dive under the 60-tonne maintenance vehicle, ripping off the roof of the maglev train. The wreckage continued for another 300 metres on the track before coming to a halt.
  • After this, there were 23 fatalities and 11 injuries, 10 severe.
Image 2: Maintenance vehicle in normal operation


After investigation by the authorities it was stated that the accident would not have been possible if all safety regulations were adhered to. The police therefore suspected human error as the likely cause of the accident this is because of the fact that train dispatchers had forgotten that there was a maintenance vehicle on the track during the maglev trial run. Also, the measures which could have been taken to avoid the accident are highlighted:

Image 3: The aftermath of the collision
  • The supervisors were accused of failing to lay down procedures for the use of a blocking system to prevent a train from entering a section of track when there is another vehicle on it .
  • The electronic blocking system which was available for the test track was not activated at the time of the accident. If this was active, the accident could have been avoided.