The Hyperloop high-speed rail network

hyperloop

Forget the government’s proposed HS2, which could take commuters from Manchester to London in just over an hour, The Hyperloop would take just 30 minutes to go from Edinburgh to London – that’s over twice the distance in under half the time.

Musk’s machines

The American inventer-cum-entrepreneur has already introduced ground-breaking transport innovations to the market, like Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

The Hyperloop is the latest venture he’s become involved with: a subsonic rail system that has already reached the testing phase. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (or HTT), the branch of Musk’s empire responsible for assisting with the project, is building a 5-mile test loop track in California.

In the pipeline

Hyperloop is already in the pipeline, literally! Instead of rails, HTT are creating low-pressure tunnels for the Hyperloop capsules (what the trains will be called) to run through.

Air will be sucked out of the completed pipeline to mimic high altitude conditions, causing less air resistance.

However, air is being added elsewhere. In order to reduce friction HTT’s engineers have suggested using air bearings rather than wheels, so the capsules will essentially float. Magnets, similar to those already used by Japan’s 311 mph maglev trains, are another option.

Faster than a speeding bullet train

So, Japan’s bullet trains can hit around 311mph, but they normally travel at around the 275mph mark. The Hyperloop capsules could hit 800mph.

However, at that speed passengers would be subject to dangerous G forces during turns, so speed isn’t the ultimate goal.

Instead, the trains are being proposed as a more ecological alternative to short flights – ideal if you’re afraid of flying.

Still, usual speeds of over 700mph have been hinted at, which is still a lot faster than anything on rails. It’s also over 100mph faster than the cruising speed of a commercial aeroplane.

Will you be able to ride it?

So where will the first commercial Hyperloop be built? To decide that question, HTT are running the Hyperloop One Global Challenge.

Companies and governments in Russia (St Petersburg to Moscow), Scandinavia (Stockholm to Helsinki), Switzerland (Geneva to St. Gallen) and America (Los Angeles and the surrounding areas) have all entered with suggestions of commuter routes that could benefit from a Hyperloop network.

CEO of HTT Dirk Ahlborn visited Slovakia recently to talk to the Ministry of Economy, who many believe are frontrunners to have the first Hyperloop (or Hyperloop Alpha, as it is known). If built, it would connect Slovakia’s capital Bratislava with two other European capitals, Vienna and Budapest.

If Hyperloop comes to the UK, the price of a ticket could be relatively reasonable. HTT estimates that they will need $54,000,000 (£40,000,000) to construct a Hyperloop capsule, but a ticket for the journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco will cost around $30, or £22.

Hyperloop high-speed rail is still in its infancy, but if it proves a success don’t be surprised to see a station opening near your in years to come.

Image courtesy of Hyperloop