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The TSB system as alternative in public transport

© UTM/b

When we hear the term magnetic levitation (maglev) technology in transport, most of us might think about the well-known Transrapid system. In German language it is often referred to as “Magnet-Schwebebahn” (literal translation: “magnet hover railway”).

For a long time, the Transrapid system was – and still is – being discussed as a track-bound but contactless means of transport. There may be various reasons why the technology has not been able to establish itself in high-speed long-distance transport, but it undoubtedly offers interesting approaches for other transport applications.

The system

Max Bögl Group from Sengenthal in Northern Bavaria built on this and invested a remarkable amount (in the high double-digit million range) in the further development and near-series production maturity of a model system for use in local public transport on the one hand and in freight transport logistics on the other. We would like to take a closer look here.

© UTM/b
© UTM/b

Max Bögl, a company with many years of experience in the construction industry and steel construction, has developed a driverless, automatically controlled local transport system that provides for the use of two- to six-car vehicles between 24.5 and 75 metres long and 2.85 metres wide. The vehicles have a modular design and the interior can be customised. A two-part test vehicle that is ready for use and used for testing and demonstration purposes has an interior with very few seats and leaning surfaces, but can of course be customised to the desired parameters of the respective user at any time.

The vehicles use a track consisting of parallel concrete elements. The standard length of the support spacing for high-level guidance is 26 metres, but can be extended to 72 metres. Reaction rails are laid in the concrete elements of the track. The vehicles “float” at a distance of approx. 8 mm evenly and with very little noise over the track. In a variation on Transrapid high-speed technology, the TSB (Transport System Bögl) uses long reaction rails and short stator technology on the vehicles.

According to extensive measurements, the energy consumption during operation is 0.05 – 0.08 kWh per passenger kilometre and thus in the range of conventional rail transport systems. The higher energy requirement due to electromagnetic levitation is offset by the advantages resulting from the significantly reduced frictional resistance compared to wheel-rail systems. Reinhard Christeller had already briefly decribed the system here:

In the meantime, numerous other extensive tests have taken place on the factory premises in Middle Franconia, but also on a test facility in cooperation with Chinese partners near the city of Chengdu – to further develop the system and demonstrate its market readiness to potential interested parties.

The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr – BMDV) had carried out a feasibility study on the use of alternative transport systems in track-guided public transport, specifically investigating the use of the TSB:

TransportTechnologie-Consult Karlsruhe GmbH (TTK) was in charge of the study, taking into account traffic, technical and economic aspects, comparing it with other technical system solutions and also examining the necessary authorisation and approval procedures. Legal aspects and possible funding opportunities under the German Municipal Transport Financing Act (GVFG) are also considered.

As possible practical applications, comparisons with typical application situations for trams/light rail vehicles, underground railways and suburban railways are analysed and presented in a strengths/weaknesses analysis. A ground-level route was assumed for the road, urban and suburban railway systems, an exclusively underground route for the underground railway system and an elevated route for the TSB transport system. In a further study by the same client/contractor, the use of the TSB as a feeder line in the vicinity of Munich Airport was analysed.

The conclusion is a fundamentally positive assessment of the suitability “as an available and competitive alternative to classic track-guided transport systems” (p. 201). The particular suitability for connections that are typically covered by suburban railways is emphasised, but other fields of application are by no means excluded.

On site

UTM had the opportunity to inspect the systems and vehicles on site and test them in operation. The low noise level and the very smooth, almost vibration-free ride, even at different speeds, inclines, curves, etc., are impressive. The noise level is also low from the outside and in any case noticeably lower than that of trams and vehicles with conventional wheel-rail technology. The functioning of the points, which can be set very quickly and allow a flexibility in operation that is equivalent to other track-guided, crossing-free systems, can also be observed impressively in the test facility. The track layout allows steep gradients of up to 10 degrees, cross-slopes of up to 8 degrees and curves with a radius of up to 45 metres. The trolley elements can be installed at ground level, underground and also elevated as an elevated railway, and the space requirement here can also be regarded as competitive in comparison to other crossing-free rail systems in any case, this also applies to the conceivable and practical access areas.

The equipment details in the interior of the vehicles can be customised, depending on the respective application profile of future users. Up to 127 passengers can be accommodated per vehicle element.

The TSB is certainly a technically suitable solution for local or regional transport. The integration of a completely new system into an existing local transport network naturally depends on the respective framework and preliminary conditions at the chosen location, but very different applications are conceivable.

Of course, the expected construction costs for the creation and integration of such a new system also play a significant role in all considerations. The BMDV study mentioned above provides the following information (data basis year 2020):

Construction cost comparison as per © BMDV feasibility study (German language):

Commercial application

The next milestone for the Max Bögl Group is the commercial application of the system and the construction of a first commercial system that can prove the suitability of the TSB in daily passenger operations. To this end, talks are being held in many directions. Recently, the installation of a first line in Berlin was discussed, which has not yet been finalised at a political level. In addition, a feasibility study is currently underway for a 4.5 km route in Nuremberg from the new Technical University to the Südklinikum, and the Bavarian state government has spoken out in favour of such a project.

Whether a first application will be found in Europe, with its often comparatively complex planning, construction and approval processes, or in a country where the TSB can offer high-quality, track-based public transport for the first time as a completely new system, will undoubtedly remain exciting to observe and to study.

© UTM/b
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Jean--Guy Lepage
Jean--Guy Lepage
1 month ago

Great system, I’ll think ils the future of urbain transportation. Many advantages over others system for less cost and maintenance over lifetime !!!