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Oliver Wyman Report Highlights Maglev as a Key to Europe's Green Transport Goals

Oliver Wyman Report Highlights Maglev as a Key to Europe's Green Transport Goals
photo: Japan RailPass / Public domain/Japanese Maglev
28 / 03 / 2024

A new report from global management consultancy Oliver Wyman, titled “Elevating rail in Europe: technology upgrades for greener transport,” points to advanced rail technologies, including passive magnetic levitation (maglev), as essential for advancing toward a carbon-neutral, high-performance pan-European long-distance transport network.

Highlighting the integration of advanced technologies with existing rail infrastructure as a cost-effective and rapid approach to meeting Europe's green transport objectives, the report underscores maglev's potential as both an interim solution and a foundation for future innovations like hyperloop. With Nevomo having successfully tested its MagRail technology, trains are to levitate and travel at speeds up to 550 km/h on current tracks.

Nevomo / Public domain

"We are very pleased that a globally renowned management consulting company such as Oliver Wyman has recognized the potential for advanced technologies to accelerate the transformation of European long-distance rail transport and make it more efficient and carbon-neutral," said Stefan Kirch, Chief Commercial Officer & Co-Founder, Nevomo. "After the European Commission confirmed hyperloop as one of the technologies to be supported and promoted as next-generation innovations, we are very excited about the potential of our industry and the role Nevomo will play in shaping it," he added.

The urgency to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector by more than 70% by 2050, as mandated by the European Green Deal, positions rail as an essential element in achieving more sustainable transport. However, existing rail infrastructure faces significant capacity constraints that obstruct the expansion of services on key routes.

Nevomo / Public domain

Nevomo’s MagRail technology, therefore, offers a solution by enhancing the capacity and efficiency of existing railway lines, allowing for the operation of electric trains in non-electrified areas and automating train operations to minimize human error. This innovation could significantly boost freight dynamics, loading limits, and flexibility without the necessity for new line construction, directly addressing the capacity challenges faced by European rail networks.

"Rail in Europe is crucial for the European Green Deal, but capacity is a challenge. Building new lines takes time and land is limited. Faster acceleration and higher train speeds are needed to enhance capacity. Technologies that can be applied to existing rail infrastructure, like passive maglev, would allow for medium-term effects and cost control while leveraging current infrastructure. It is worth investigating for the railway industry and infrastructure operators," said Joris D'Incà, Partner at Oliver Wyman.

Oliver Wyman’s report also analyzes the financial aspects of adopting passive maglev technology, estimating a EUR 20 billion investment requirement for upgrading the north-south corridor, a fraction of the EUR 60 billion projected cost for new conventional high-speed rail infrastructure to achieve comparable capacity enhancements. This investment would cover retrofitting passenger trains and a portion of freight wagons, alongside necessary infrastructure upgrades. The report’s findings advocate for the rail industry and infrastructure operators to explore passive maglev and similar technologies that leverage existing infrastructure for immediate and cost-effective improvements.