China and Russia are eyeing the Hyperloop – will this miracle vehicle take over from the high speed rail?
The 21st century Silk Road that is busily taking shape now through the planned construction of 64,000 kilometres of rail tracks may eventually use the Hyperloop if China and Russia have their way. It was reported last year that CRRC Corp, China’s largest maker of railway equipment, was in talks for a potential investment in Hyperloop One, the company behind the idea. Several months following that, Vladimir Putin reportedly expressed an interest in it too.
So, what is Hyperloop One? Briefly, it is a super high-speed, levitation-based, low-pressure tube travel. Originally the idea of billionaire genius Elon Musk, shared with the world in 2013, it envisioned high-velocity train travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a loop of tubes. Low air pressure inside the tubes and magnetic track levitation remove most of the friction from the journey, thus allowing the pods inside to travel incredibly fast.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
The speed? A whopping 1,100 kph. As comparison, Japan and China are currently building high speed rail trains that can manage only speeds of between 500kph – 600kph. Most high speed trains today are operating in the region of 300kph – 400kph. “It is like travelling from New York to Washington, DC, in 20 minutes,” says Hyperloop One co-founder Josh Giegel.
Giegel and co-founder Shervin Pishevar are beating Musk to it by planning to open its first full-scale development test track in Las Vegas in the first quarter of this year. More tellingly, the Finnish and Dutch governments have given their approval for Hyperloop One to build “proof of operations” facilities that will provide “proving grounds in the real world, claims Giegel.
The company also reportedly plans to link Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, reducing the two-hour car journey time to 12 minutes. “That is faster than some passenger jets. This will let people live and work where they choose because it is so fast that the precise location of the stations has become inconsequential,” Giegel remarks.
DISTANCE MATTERS NOT
Because Hyperloop reduces physical distance to a minor consideration, vast distances within continents can feel like it’s just a few metro stops away. The significant implication is that distance no longer matters and humans can live anywhere they like – even across continents as travelling a few thousand kilometres then would be akin to a mere few metro stops today.
“In 20 years, the whole world will be interconnected by Hyperloop,” Pishevar predicts. “In 20 years, riding in a plane will seem like riding a horse, except it’s a lot more dangerous to fly. We can move the world ahead faster and make the world a much smaller place. The idea of borders and boundaries begins to melt away when you can travel so fast between places.”
As a result, the co-founders believe the infrastructure would transform cities, create new ones, and reshape seaports (and airports) the world over. And in China’s mind, it would be precisely the ‘miracle vehicle’ it is looking for to speed up its 21st Century Silk Road.[/ihc-hide-content]