Our roots: The Transrapid maglev train

Transrapid train in operation on the track

With its contact-free, electromagnetic levitation and propulsion system, the Transrapid became known as a marvel of German engineering. Developing a maglev train that would soon reach top speeds of over 400 km/h – that was the goal in the early days of our company.

A later generation of the Transrapid runs on the test track in Emsland
A later generation of the Transrapid on the test track in Emsland

Development and production of the Transrapid

1974 - 1991: Origins of the company

In the course of research concerning the development and application of high performance, high speed rail systems initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Thyssen Henschel (nowadays: thyssenkrupp AG) developed the long-stator propulsion magnetic levitation principle which is still in use today. This marked the beginning of the Transrapid era; and in the following years, many generations of Transrapid trains – each better, faster, and more efficient than the previous ones – were developed, built, and tested on the test track in the German Emsland region.

The Transrapid built by thyssenkrupp in Shanghai entering Pudong station
Airport link: thyssenkrupp's Transrapid maglev train has been connecting Shanghai's airport with the inner city since the early 2000's

1992 - 2002: Lots of big plans, one real application

In the early 1990s, German authorities started planning various national superspeed maglev links – like the connection between Hamburg and Berlin at first, then the Munich airport line, and the 'Metrorapid' in the west of Germany. There was also a lot of internationl interest in building Transrapid routes, for example in the USA, in Qatar, or Brazil.

However, the series production vehicle TR08 ended up only being used on international ground: It has been connecting the Chinese mega city of Shanghai with its international airport since December 2022, at a speed of 430 km/h.

German media reported the "end of a dream" - but new projects were already being worked on in Munich

2003 - 2008: Bittersweet goodbyes

From 2003 onwards, the previously planned Transrapid links were given up, one by one, for several reasons. It was evident in 2008 that a Transrapid line would not be built within Germany – which made it nearly impossible to market the product at all. It was with a heavy heart that the production site in Kassel was closed, only keeping the Munich facility of the company in operation.

However, we quickly realized there was also plenty of potential in this forced re-start: Surely we could use our acquired expertise from the Transrapid development in other industries and apply it to different projects?

Read more: How we became TechCenter Control Technology (TCCT)