German Leaders Meet to Decide Future of Magnetic Train Following Crash

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Germany's Traffic Minister met Sunday with industry leaders involved in the development of high-speed magnetic technology, after 23 people died in the crash of a maglev train that prosecutors are initially blaming on insufficient security.

Investigators continued to search for evidence at the crash site, along a stretch of test track near the northwestern German town of Lathen.

Their efforts are concentrating on why controllers allowed the train to proceed onto the special, elevated track although a maintenance vehicle was parked there, and whether security measures were sufficient and regulations were followed.

In Berlin, Traffic Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, his counterpart from the southern German state of Bavaria — which has been considering constructing a magnetic train track to link the heart of the city with its nearby airport — and representatives from the company that makes the high-speed trains were meeting.

Their findings will determine what consequences it will have for development of the technology, which has been hugely unpopular in Germany although it was developed here.

German engineers have worked for more than two decades on the maglev — or magnetic levitation — technology that allows trains to hover on a magnetic field on the track. The lack of friction helps make possible speeds as high as 270 miles per hour.

The crash came as Tiefensee was visiting China to urge officials there to extend their use of the German-made technology along a route in Shanghai, China, the only commercial stretch in the world to use the German-developed maglev technology.

China's top leaders offered condolences to the German leaders and families of the 23 people killed in the accident in Germany, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said Saturday.

Prosecutors investigating the accident have been unusually frank, revealing details of their investigation that is focusing on the control center for the 20-mile track, where the required two employees were on duty.

"What we are looking into is why the train was given the go-ahead even though the maintenance vehicle was on the track," said Alexander Retemeyer, a spokesman for prosecutors in Osnabrueck, who are leading the investigation.

The controllers, Retemeyer said, were supposed to make sure the maintenance vehicle was off the track through several layers of checks, from keeping a meticulous written log of the vehicle's movements, to tracking its location, using a GPS satellite navigational device.

They were also supposed to have radio contact with workers in the vehicle, which is not allowed to move unless instructed to do so by controllers.

As of Sunday, the controllers on duty had not yet been interviewed, as they were still in shock and undergoing psychological treatment, officials said.

"Safety for the maintenance vehicle is the responsibility of people, and so far we have not been able to determine any individual suspects because only now do we know the timeline of what happened," Retemeyer said.

The maintenance car was hit by the low nose of the train at a speed of 105 mph and was flung upward, ripping open the top of the first car of the train and strewing mangled seats, shards of glass and twisted metal parts below the 12-foot high track.

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