By Michael Rothenborg
It sounds a bit like a far-out sci-fi movie from the 1970s: Sending a train full of people through a giant, depressurised tube. As the tube is a near-vacuum, the train can move at speeds of over 1,000 km per hour, much faster and in a more climate friendly way than any commercial aircraft – and at around three times the speed of the Japanese Shinkansen and other modern bullet trains.
Make no mistake, however. The Hyperloop train might be coming to a capital near you within the next decade – and thereby solve a lot of congestion problems.
“As a long-term researcher in the field I look positively on the project, which will take current train technology to a new level of innovation,” says Folke Snickars, Professor and Research Leader at KTH, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
He is not alone with his optimism. This type of low-air-resistance tube transport has been widely touted as the new future of mass transport, and those flirting with the idea range from French national rail company SNCF to the biggest investor in Uber and Airbnb, Shervin Pishevar. Leading magazines are writing more serious articles about the technology than they were just a year ago. For example, TechNewsWorld has a headline proclaiming “Hyperloop dreams are getting real”. And engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed passenger pods to be built and tested in a prototype tube in the USA. They hope to refute sceptics’ argument that a train ride that fast will inevitably be unpleasantly bumpy, with rollercoaster-like acceleration.