“Hyperloop”: The capsule train promised for 2020 is taking shape
Imagine sitting down in a capsule and being projected down a tube at faster-than-airline speeds: this is what is being promised by the “Hyperloop”, a fantasy which could become a reality by 2020.
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Twelve minutes to travel the 150 kilometres that separate Dubai and Abu Dhabi: This is the promise made by futuristic high-speed transport system Hyperloop, which was created by Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla electric cars and the Space X space exploration project. This insane project, which involves propelling passenger pods through a tube at high speed (1), began on Tuesday with the signature of an agreement between the Road Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai and Californian company Hyperloop One.
Dubai just 50 minutes from Riyadh ?
Thanks to this “historic agreement”, “we begin to evaluate the delivery of the world's first Hyperloop system across the country,” announced Rob Lloyd to members of the press gathered in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. According to the American company’s CEO, the first studies “will initially focus on the value that Hyperloop One will deliver in Dubai and across the Emirates.”
Promoters are rubbing their hands together in anticipation, since the agreement signed on Tuesday would enable passengers and cargo to travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes, whereas it takes an average of an hour and a half to travel between the two cities by road. The Hyperloop network could then be extended across the region, meaning that Dubai would only be 50 minutes away from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, a journey which currently takes two hours by plane.
Hyperloop One in the Emirates in the next five years?
No costs or time scale were mentioned for putting the system in place but, according to Rob Lloyd, “from a technological point of view, we could have a Hyperloop One system built in the UAE in the next five years.”
For his part, the RTA’s managing director, Mattar al-Tayer, reminded that this agreement only covers the feasibility study. While the RTA is aiming to develop automated modes of transport in Dubai between now and 2030, Mattar al-Tayer explained that construction costs would be “an important factor when making such a strategic decision,” not forgetting the questions of safety and market research.
(1) Hyperloop One claims that its system is safer than air travel, cheaper than high-speed trains and uses very little energy per person, about as much as riding a bike. The propulsion system was first tested in May in the Nevada desert, with a view of marketing it in “2020-2021”, said Josh Giegel, president of engineering for the firm, which was created in 2014. The pods were found to reach speeds of 1,200 km/h.