UK has to wait decades for 700mph hyperloop train, report says

The construction of a 700mph transport system that would have a ”transformative impact” on the UK is still a couple of decades away, according to government advisers.

A report published by the Department for Transport’s Science Advisory Council (SAC) has discussed the feasibility of how a hyperloop system could be introduced safely within the UK’s transport infrastructure. Any such construction would allow people to “live anywhere in the country and easily commute great distances” by cutting journey times dramatically. Users could even feasibly travel between London and Edinburgh in 50 minutes.

One firm working on the technology is Virgin Hyperloop, which has previously said that it aims to have an 'operational system' ready by 2021.  However, the DfT say the “scale of the technical challenges involved” will mean a hyperloop system is unlikely to be ready for decades. 

The transport system is a proposed method of propelling passengers through low pressure tubes in pods as little as ten seconds apart at speeds of up to 700mph. But the paper highlights how Britain’s shape and dense population will prove tough obstacles to overcome in any future construction.

The SAC states: “The topology of the UK, its dense population and intensive land use may make hyperloop construction more difficult and costly than in other locations. There may also be significant challenges in tunnelling in parts of the UK depending on the local geological conditions. The SAC notes that, because of its unique design and operational characteristics, hyperloop systems would likely require a new regulatory framework and associated safety standards.”

The published report is based on meetings held by SAC on 26 October 2016 and 14 June 2017 to discuss hyperloop technology with the revolutionary technology first proposed by Elon Musk. The American entrepreneur in 2013 outlined a tube-based system where pods transported passengers or freight at very high speeds in a low friction environment. A number of organisations are currently working to develop the technology. The key elements of each system include: 

  • A tube containing a low pressure, controlled environment
  • Sealed pods carrying freight or passengers
  • A system for levitating and accelerating pods inside the tube.
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