This presents more practical problems. Even with a quadrupling of tunnel boring speeds, the length of tunnels necessary to make it a worthwhile transport system simply don’t add up against the timescales being proposed. Those developers saying they want three operating lines by 2021... well, good luck with that!
It reminds me of the current political arena, which sees political parties forced to over-promise. Politicians know that what they're saying is impossible to deliver, but also know that the truth is not electable. Please, let's not let the engineering industry start down this rocky path, and while I see the need for Hyperloop to create interest, please keep it broadly realistic.
I'll also mention Hyperloop's competition, both as a futuristic mode of transport as well as for more immediate funding. There is a raft of other viable clean transport technologies being developed. Autonomous electric cars have the potential to make rail travel obsolete with door-to-door transport on demand. Electric aircraft are also in development, as is the flying car. While these latter forms of transport seem pie in the sky, they are actually being built and trialled, and developers seem more realistic about the finances, timescales and challenges ahead.
For transport systems the primary 'must-have' is not speed. Efficiency, reliability and operational safety trump speed - meaning slower aircraft, slower road speed limits and slower trains. There is no huge call for Concorde to return or 100mph motorway speed limits. I question the sellability of Hyperloop on the principle that it's so much faster - I'm just not sure the demand is there.
Perhaps Hyperloop’s biggest source of credibility is the notion that Elon Musk is driving it. Many assume he will make it work in the same miracle-worker type fashion he has for Tesla and SpaceX. The bad news is, he isn’t driving it, and he is far less active in Hyperloop than his other current successes. Musk also makes it clear, he has absolutely no business connection with any developer.
It’s a lesson for us all. A successful project ultimately has to result in practical roll-out and financial payback. Ideas and hype do not pay the bills and are a sure-fire way to lose money quickly. That’s why for me, Hyperloop is a fascinating, but totally implausible, project.
Justin Cunningham, Editor