According to the International Maglev Board (IMB), the implementation of maglev freight trains is possible, but will not be easy. However, the Board emphasizes the importance of experiments like the Port of Taranto experiment in identifying new ideas and solutions. Professor Johannes Kluhspis, president of IMB, said that “they will find a solution, it will work, then we will compare the results with existing systems and the results will show who will be the winner.”

maglev
Picture: Michael Dittmer. International Maglev Board

Railway Supply magazine writes about this with reference to an interview with specialists conducted by our colleagues from RailFreight.

The main problems of using maglev technology on freight trains are the weight, which significantly exceeds the weight of passenger trains, as well as the infrastructure system. Maglev trains would, in fact, require a different rail network than traditional trains, meaning that maglev tracks would need to be built from scratch. While not impossible, it is clear that such a transition would require a significant amount of time and massive investment.

One of the first experiments with maglev technology for moving containers took place in 2006 in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In this case, maglev technology was used to speed up the process of moving containers from the port to the hinterland.

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Another trial on the application of maglev technology for rail freight was carried out in Hamburg at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg in October 2021. Max Bögl, a multinational construction company based in Germany, has installed a test track at the port of Hamburg.

As Professor Kluhspies explained: “This system tried to give the impression that it was possible to transport cargo containers on a maglev. However, there are some doubts about the high logistics requirements and the amount of energy required to move heavy loads using this technology.”

Another issue with containers is time slots: how many containers can you move from one location to another and in what time. You need a lot of parallel routes and parallel devices for the system to reach the same number of containers in the same time.” In other words, the current maglev technology still does not offer significant benefits in terms of energy and time savings. Transporting heavier loads with maglev technology will likely require different engineering efforts and possibly a completely redesigned system.

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