DfT assesses feasibility of a hyperloop in the UK

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Credit: Hyperloop One.
Credit: Hyperloop One.

A hyperloop system would have a transformative impact on the UK, enabling people to “live anywhere within the country and easily commute great distances.”

That is one of the key findings from the Department for Transport’s Science Advisory Council (SAC), which has met to assess the feasibility of the transport mode and provide independent advice on future policy and strategy.

Travelling at speeds of around 700mph, journey times of less than an hour could be achieved between most UK destinations, it added, which would help to stimulate economic development.


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Credit: Hyperloop One.
Credit: Hyperloop One.

In addition, the high-speed transport system would be “very energy efficient” in comparison to planes, trains and cars because of the lack of air resistance.

However, hyperloop systems are intended to operate with headways as short as 10 seconds between pods in sealed, low pressure tubes, meaning there are a range of risks that will require careful consideration, including:

  • Emergency braking at very high speeds;
  • Power failure;
  • Protection from physical and cyber attacks;
  • Protection and evacuation of passengers in case of a depressurised tube or pod.

With particular consideration to the UK, the council said that the country’s topology and dense population may make construction – which would require as straight a path as possible to limit the g-force – more difficult and costly when compared to construction in other countries.

Credit: Hyperloop One.
Credit: Hyperloop One.

Full or partial underground construction may be required to stop such a system impacting existing infrastructure and protected areas, which itself presents more challenges during construction and once it is operational.

Another hurdle that such a radical transport system would have to overcome, the council noted, would be passenger acceptance. Nevertheless, railways and aeroplanes have overcome similar barriers in the past.

In conclusion, SAC reported that: “…whilst there are some specific design and operational challenges to be overcome, there is nothing in the fundamental hyperloop concept that would prevent it from being able to operate safely and securely.

“However, because of the scale of the technical challenges involved (assuming that these are ultimately resolved and that the technology proves acceptable to passengers), an operational hyperloop system is likely to be at least a couple of decades away.”

SAC added that it believes the UK could play an importance role in hyperloop’s development through its engineering expertise, strong professional services and infrastructure delivery sectors.

SAC’s findings follow two meetings, one on October 26, 2016, and another on June 14, 2017, in which SAC received a presentation from Hyperloop One, one of the organisations working to develop and commercialise a hyperloop system.

Hyperloop explained: 


Read more: How long would your commute take on a hyperloop?


 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Headways of 10 seconds means there is less than 10 seconds to divert a vehicle from a large, partly evacuated tube into a branch tube. How could this be done reliably? By comparison, what is the shortest time needed to switch conventional railway tracks?

  2. This is the future of transportation
    No need to acquire land ,compulsory purchase ?
    Can be built in a completely straight line
    No need to follow contours of the landscape!!!
    No weather restraints !!!
    Travel times greatly reduced compared to conventional Rail systems !!!
    Ellon musk certainly is a visionary
    Person
    It’s just a shame our MP,s in this country don’t see this ,
    They would rather spend 25billion plus in a new rail system that improves traveling time by wait for it 15 to 20 mins from Liverpool to London
    And they think that’s worth 25billion
    Unbelievable!!!!
    And to think we trust these people in running this country 😩😩😩😂😂😂😂

  3. This is a new concept, still in it’s early stages of development and, despite what the proposors and investors in hyperloop may say, governments are not going to rush into construction until a test hyperloop – carrying passengers – has been deemed a proven success. Then, despite what Paul says, land will have to purchased as such a system may not neccessarily be totally in tunnels and, as with all infrastructure schemes, there will undoubtedly be objections and delays in construction.

  4. If Denver needs a train that goes 200 mph the French and other nations have been building them for over 40 years and can build one for Denver. However, Americans prefer to promote and dream about building something based on a hypothetical design based on a concept from 1905 which no-one has ever successfully implemented, preferring gabbing about a potential miracle in the future instead of purchasing something already tested and on the shelf. Replacing positive action with passive dreaming is an American specialty.

  5. How easy is it to insert intermediate stations? You will only link up the country and go from anywhere to anywhere with frequent stops. Something HS2 hasn’t got around.

    • I would suggest that inserting intermediate stops between, say London and Edinburgh, would certainly add to the construction cost, as I would think that “loops” would need to be added. Otherwise, as there is a there is a projected 10 second headway between pods, the system would come to a halt if one had to stop at Newcastle to let some passengers alight.

      • How would a terminal station handle pods arriving at 10 second intervals? I suppose they could be stacked up behind each other, slowly move alongside a moving pavement for off-loading and loading, then shoot out the other end (but then, how are the airlocks managed?). The promoters need to turn down the hype and give some indication that they have at least considered the switching problem.

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