MADRID – Now a high-speed train ride from Madrid to Barcelona takes around 2.5 hours. However, this travel time may be reduced to less than half an hour in the future. This would be possible with the HyperloopTT.
Spain has deployed more than 3,200 kilometres of high-speed trains since the introduction of the AVE in the country in 1992. The very first high-speed train connected Madrid with Seville. Spain is now the country with the second most extensive network in the world, after China.
Sixteen years later, what is now one of the most successful connections in terms of consumption and passenger numbers was launched: the AVE between Madrid and Barcelona. Fifteen years later, Renfe is no longer the exclusive operator of that connection. Other projects are committed to bridging the distance of 625 kilometres. That now takes another 2 hours and 30 minutes with stops in Zaragoza, Tarragona and Lleida.
High-speed conveyor system via vacuum tubes
One of the projects with a view to this trajectory is the French HyperloopTT. This aims to create a high-speed transport system via vacuum tubes to transport people and goods at speeds of up to 1,200 kilometres per hour.
The idea is to transport passengers and goods in an energy-efficient, economically viable and sustainable way. However, it’s not a new idea. A similar proposal for high-speed pneumatic transport dates back to the 19th century. In 1864, the Frenchman Victor Popp proposed a system of vacuum tubes to carry mail and passengers in Paris.
Hyperloop builds on an idea from the 19th century
That idea was further developed in the 1870s, when several inventors, including Alfred Ely Beach in New York and Julius Pintsch in Berlin, built experimental pneumatic conveying systems for sending letters and newspapers in vacuum tubes.
Beach’s transportation system was inaugurated in 1870 and operated for several years. The passengers travelled in capsules that slid through a tunnel of cast iron under the action of pneumatic pressure. The system was not a commercial success due to high construction and operating costs. It was, however, an impressive technological achievement for its time.
Now HyperloopTT is working on the same idea that should become an alternative to “high-speed trains”. Andrés de León, CEO of the company, talked about it in Cadena SER’s program La Ventana.
How does the Hyperloop work?
In the HyperloopTT system, a series of capsules would travel in a vacuum environment. They could hover at speeds “around 1,200 miles per hour” with very little electricity consumption. Each capsule would fit about 28 to 58 people. Andrés de León also indicated that each capsule would fly every 40 seconds and ship every seven minutes.
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To be effective, the system would need to cover a minimum distance of 600 kilometres for long-distance travel. This would allow the distance between Madrid and Barcelona to be covered in less than 30 minutes. Moreover, a Madrilene could arrive in Paris in two hours.
What would the price of the Hyperloop be?
HyperloopTT has been tested in several places around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Slovakia and France. Work is currently underway in Italy on the construction of the first 10-kilometre pipeline between Venice and Padua. “An opportunity to test its viability,” said the CEO.
According to him, various studies have shown that the payback period is between 15 and 25 years. As for the possible price of the Hyperloop tickets, the CEO indicates that it is still early to know how much the trips would cost. Nevertheless, he dared to estimate: “our study uses prices of 75% of what the cost of a plane ticket would be”.