Move over HS2, Hyperloop is what the UK needs

Remember HS2, the high-speed railway link between Manchester and London whose cost is currently running to the tune of nearly £80bn? Well, it could all be for naught if the UK’s first Hyperloop system comes to pass, turning the proposed sub-hour high-speed rail journey into just an 18-minute jolly between London and Manchester.

Hyperloop, the brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, is a superfast transportation system. It’s been in the theoretical and extremely early testing phases in the US for about a year or so. Now, one UK startup wants to bring Hyperloop technology to the UK, to create a transportation network that could significantly reduce travel times across Britain.

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John Miles, an engineer at UK Hyperloop hopeful ARUP, says the project could “bring the London Underground experience to the national picture”. Now, the idea of travelling in a cramped, humid carriage travelling at 760mph on a trip to Manchester may not sound appealing, but Miles’ statement does show that a UK Hyperloop could close the gap between Britain’s big cities.

Hyperloop One – a UK company developing Musk’s technology – and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have supposedly spoken to the UK government and private companies about bringing the project to the UK. Both Hyperloop firms reportedly received positive responses on the matter, especially in relation to the HS2 project.

Alan James, VP of global business development at Hyperloop One, claims that it would be both financially and socially profitable compared to HS2. “Hyperloop could connect all the great cities of the English north, not just to London, but to each other, making Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, effectively a single city, for instance.”

Being a Mancunian, I’m not so sure I want to be connected so closely to the folks of Leeds and Liverpool (sorry, old rivalries die hard), but having a connected northern hub is also an aim of later HS2 phases.

However, a UK Hyperloop programme does still face one, rather mammoth, challenge: the technology doesn’t yet exist. Hyperloop is still very much a pipe dream, with no-one yet having managed to build a functioning full-scale prototype of the system. Hyperloop One hopes to be one of the first, which could seriously bolster a case for a UK rollout. For now, however, a British Hyperloop system is as much a reality as completion of the HS2 project on-budget.

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