UK Ultraspeed is designed to Empower Britain's Economy, Enhance Britain's Environment and to Transform Britain's Transport.  Ultraspeed is the most comprehensive and detailed proposal anywhere in the world for deployment of Transrapid maglev on a full intercity scale.  

The Ultraspeed masterplan builds incrementally from Stage 1 routes between clusters of cities (eg Liverpool - Manchester - Leeds or Glasgow - Edinburgh) in to an 840 km North:South spinal route linking London and Heathrow Airport will all the key cities of the English Midlands, North West, North East and then over the border to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Using Transrapid, Ultraspeed is faster than short-haul air travel over all UK sectors, whilst producing as little as 20% of the emissions.  When coupled to the UK's increasing emphasis of electrical generation from carbon-free sources, Transrapid maglev technology will ultimately provide the UK with the world's absolute fastest ground transport with absolute zero emissions.

In UK application Transrapid is between 2.5 and 4 times quicker than rail, and 5 to 8 times faster than driving, depending on route.   Ultraspeed maglev leapfrogs the much slower (300km/h) TGVs by which many of Britain’s competitors will be constrained for the next 100-150 years. 

Stage 1 routes are at highly advanced stages of planning in both Scotland and Northern England.

The Conservative Party, which is currently the front-runner to form the next UK Government after the 2010 General Election, has committed to contribute public funding for at least 400km of new north - south high speed infrastructure.  For the first time in Western politics, they have also made a commitment to hold an open competition between 300 km/h rail and 500 km/h UK Ultraspeed maglev to select the optimum system. All other main UK parties are also likely to fight the next General Election with their own commitments to high speed ground transport.  

In UK conditions, the case for maglev is compelling.  On average 500 km/h maglev costs only GBP 30m per route km, whereas the UK's only TGV-style railway (from the Channel Tunnel to London) cost GBP 56.4m per route km.  Whole-life costs for maglev are projected in the region of 50% to 60% of a comparably-scoped TGV-style system.  Maglev guideway has only half the turn radius of TGV-style rail at 300 km/h and can climb gradients that are over twice as steep, which enables 21st Century maglev to be built in the UK with lower costs and less environmental intrusion that out-dated 20th Century railways.  

All-in-all the cost, carbon and connectivity case for maglev is now being proved in the UK, where Ultraspeed is the first national-scale project to have established Transrapid as comprehensively faster, cheaper and greener than wheel-on-rail.


The TVE maglev test facility

A note from a UK perspective

The world's first competitive procurement exercise will occur in the UK from 2010, when 500 km/h Ultraspeed goes head-to-head with 300 km/h rail proposals.   As part of this process, Transrapid will be assessed in every detail against the rail competitors.  

Whilst maglev operational experience in Shanghai is invaluable, the UK authorities will also require detailed trials and evaluation exercises to be conducted at the Emsland test facility. 

With its partners in the UK and Scotland, Ultraspeed looks forward to developing partnership programmes with German Bund, Land and industry to proactively develop the R&D programme at TVE to support the breakthrough application of Transrapid in the UK.  Clearly such a programme would also strongly support the strategic promotion of Transrapid into the only other major Western market with no sunk investment in high speed rail, the USA.

Info provided by UKU Ultraspeed, Dr. Alan James, May 2009.


UKU Ultraspeed Project