Virgin's Hyperloop: Future or fantasy?

Jan 22, 2018 · bbc.com

Screen shot 2018 01 22 at 06.22.08

So, here's the plan - we're going to load you into a pod, and then shoot you at 700 mph (1,123 km/h) through a vacuum, taking you to your destination in minutes rather than hours.

That is the rather unlikely pitch of Hyperloop One.

But the remarkable thing that struck me on a recent trip to the project's test site in Nevada was that nobody thought it was, well, remarkable.

The Hyperloop idea, first floated by Tesla's Elon Musk, has sparked a number of projects keen to demonstrate that putting a maglev train in a vacuum tube can deliver the revolutionary transport system of the future.

Maglev - or magnetic levitation - trains, which use magnets to lift a train above rails, reducing friction and increasing possible speeds, are already in operation. One takes passengers from Shanghai to its airport at 270 mph (430 km/h).

But of the plans to put make a maglev even faster by putting it in a vacuum tube, Hyperloop One - or as we must now call it following Sir Richard Branson's investment, Virgin Hyperloop One - is the most advanced.

Arriving on the site in the desert 40 miles north of Las Vegas, you can immediately see this is a costly operation to run.

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