Faster than trains, safer than cars and far less damaging to the environment than planes, the Dutch province of North Holland believes that hyperloop could be the future.
Plans are being drawn up for Amsterdam to be connected to other European cities by the futuristic high-speed mode of transport including a magnetic train in an airless tube capable of moving at speeds of over 600 mph due to lack of friction and drag.
A study by Dutch tech startup Hardt Hyperloop, in collaboration with the province, found that hyperloop can reduce travel times from Amsterdam to Paris, Brussels, Düsseldorf or Frankfurt by “hours to minutes”, boasting that “borders would become literally blurred”.
Commuters entering a hyperloop gondola in Amsterdam could arrive in Brussels in less than 30 minutes or in Paris in 90 minutes instead of the current three and a half hours, the study suggests.
It remains to be seen how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the transnational project at a time when the borders are closed and an economic recession is widely predicted.
Additionally, the practicality of the hyperloop has been questioned since entrepreneur Elon Musk suggested in 2013 that aerodynamic nacelles could be the future of high-speed travel for passengers and cargo, given its relatively low energy consumption.
Questions have been raised about its value for money, with critics stating categorically that progressive changes in current transportation are a better bet than inventing a fifth mode to reach cars, trains, boats and planes. Australia is the latest to reject it in favor of a proven and reliable high-speed train.
But Jeroen Olthof, the deputy responsible for mobility in North Holland, said that he had been impressed by the possibility of creating a “compact region” of five European cities in which commuters could move from door to door in less of one hour.
Economic modeling released this week suggests that such time savings would generate an additional 275 billion euros (£ 241 billion) of GDP for the province, representing growth of 121%.
Amsterdam would not only be served by a larger workforce, but the drop in demand for short-haul flights from Schiphol Airport could lead to a reduction of around 20,000 to 24,000 aircraft movements in 2040, according to reports.
Olthof said: “We know people are willing to travel door to door for up to an hour for work. With such a fast hyperloop, it suddenly becomes possible to travel much longer trip distances. It sounds promising.
“This is why we are going to consult other authorities and parties to continue this research.”
Hardt Hyperloop, which was founded after winning the Musk international hyperloop competition in 2017, is partnering with companies such as Tata Steel on the project.
A first high-speed test facility is being built in the Dutch province of Groningen with a three-kilometer test track, making it the first of its kind in Europe. A 30-meter low-speed test tunnel has already been built in Delft.
Hardt Hyperloop has studied how its passenger pods – which will be propelled through a tube – could also change routes by changing lanes without reducing speed.