back to article Hyperloop One teases idea of 50-minute London-Edinburgh ride

Hyperloop One, the company trying to commercialise the train-in-a-vacuum-tube tech proposed by Elon Musk, has unveiled its proposed European routes. The company has conducted a “global challenge” calling on individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop a “comprehensive commercial, transport, economic, and …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Um

    47 minutes Liverpool to Glasgow, but with 6 stops?

    They'd be better to do some research on how existing mass transit works, then see if this works.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Um

      One stop eludes them at the moment, they haven't got an airlock design yet, so quite how they expect to load passengers at the terminus isn't known yet, let alone mid tube.

      1. Urh

        Re: Um

        And there's also the whole preventing a sudden loss of vacuum. Because if that happens when a train is in motion, all the passenger will die in the resulting colossal wreckage. Many proponents of this dumb idea fail to realise that Musk's proposed Hyperloop doesn't operate at "low pressure", it essentially operates under vacuum - the pressure inside the loop (according to the documents) is equal to ambient pressure at an altitude of about 50km, i.e. HALFWAY TO OUTER SPACE.

        I admire Musk's achievements, but he is throwing far too much money away at a hilariously impractical idea.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um

          I admire Musk's achievements, but he is throwing far too much money away at a hilariously impractical idea.

          I don't think he's using his money - the statements on funding suggest that its rich venture capitalists, risk-on sovereign wealth funds and the like.

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Um

            "they haven't got an airlock design yet"

            Oh, just use direct drive-through airlock (at slow speed, natch) by placing stations ten meters below the main tube, with water* in the connecting sections - the "Stargate" cool factor alone would be off the charts...

            * there's nothing preventing you from installing appropriate drains in he stations, so if the vacuum holding up the water fails it all just drains away instead of drowning everyone in the station

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um

          And there's also the whole preventing a sudden loss of vacuum.

          Indeed. We cannot afford losing the sheep velocity measurements!

          :)

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Sudden loss of vacuum

            Like say with a small explosive device that would inevitably be smuggled on by terrorists at some point? At least if you blow a hole in an airplane you have a chance for a quick decent to 10kft followed by an emergency landing. A sudden loss of vacuum at 700 mph might not leave enough to allow identifying the bodies.

            The only way I can see this being feasible is it if is all underground - i.e. combine it with his 'Boring' company. Not that I think THAT is practical, but it is way more practical than public transit at 700 mph in vacuum sealed tubes!

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Sudden loss of vacuum

              "Like say with a small explosive device that would inevitably be smuggled on by terrorists at some point?"

              This has been thought of. Apart from the obvious security stuff:

              1: The thickness required for the tubes means any bomb in a pod is unlikely to damage them.

              2: Unlike aircraft, pods don't need to be built as lightly as possible, so they're able to be _much_ more robust to bombs (to the point where the biologicals would be paste before the pods get compromised - and each pod's only going to hold 8-25 people)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um

          I'ts trivially simple engineering to deal with a sudden decompression. Each short section of track has its own pressure regulation, and electrically operated valves that will let air in to limit the maximum air pressure differential between sections. A major pressure loss in one section would then lead to air breaking of all the cars in the loop with the fiercest braking occurring closest to the breech. The cars then slowly limp to the nearest egress. It would be scary and inconvenient but not a major wreak except perhaps for the car that was adjacent to the actual point of failure.

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Um

          "Because if that happens when a train is in motion, all the passenger will die in the resulting colossal wreckage."

          No, they won't. A leakdown will result in rapid (but not deadly) deceleration of the capsules and the system is intended to "leak some" and be fitted with vacuum pumps at regular intervals. Fitting escape hatches at regular intervals is relatively straightforward as they can't be opened unless pressures are equalised anyway.

          Switching is relatively straightforward, essentially using a tube-version of railway stub switches (which are commonly used in rollercoasters too). It's the speed of these switches which is going to determine the arrival cadence of pods.

          WRT submarine tunnelling, in many ways this is an easier problem to solve than the civils for penetrating mountains and building viaducts as for the most part the tubes can be prefabricated, then sunk and stabilised at a given depth.

          The simple solution for coping with the inevitable areas where tight radii or elevation changes are unavoidable is to slow down for those sections. It's not as if the pods are uncontrolled.

          The bigger problem is that I can't see a passenger-only hyperloop being economically possible(*) and the last thing you want to do is have special freight pod sizes which mean everything has to be repacked out of ISO containers as this _really_ destroys freighting economics (railways only kept their viability by moving away from "wagonload" mixed freight to moving containers and dedicated cars). The tubes need to be big enough for a pod carrying a shipping container to run in them and at that point you're starting to approach (or exceed) the mass of a railway wagon, with all the civil engineering requirements that go with it.

          (*) loads are cyclic for starters. Freight can run at night, and interspersed with passenger traffic in low periods. Railways have never managed to break even on passenger-only transport without massive subsidies.

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Um

          "I admire Musk's achievements, but he is throwing far too much money away at a hilariously impractical idea."

          The idea's been practical for 60 years. It's the costs of starting up that's the hurdle.

          Trains are running as fast as they can practically go. Air friction requires megawatts to overcome and the practicalities of getting power from trackside to locomotive are difficult (pantographs don't work well at 350km/h). Running partially evacuated tubes with maglev means that you can go faster with less energy input AND propel the things more easily because the difficult parts are all stationary.

          From the point of view of reducing carbon consumption, a decent fast rail system alone is enough to knock out the economics of london-edinburgh commuter flights, as even Amtrak's east coast corridor did to shuttle airlines between Boston and Washington DC. Hyperloop would do that for longer trips and is the probably face of a more-electric future.

      2. Mister Fluffy

        Re: Um

        'Platform Two; the 18:32 London to Edinburgh service will depart shortly.'

        'Boarding for the 18:32 London to Edinburgh service is closing,'

        'Boarding for the 18:32 London to Endinburgh service has closed.'

        'Clean-up crew to Platform Two.'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um

      Given that HS2 from London to Manchester will cost £50bn, using conventional rails (basically just bits of metal and concrete).

      How much is London to Edinburgh in Hyperloop going to cost?? And what volume of traffic and fares is going to justify it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Um

        But isn't most of that cost a matter of acquiring rights of way (IOW, it's not the rails that are the money sink but the land)? The hyperloop tries to get around this by being elevated and using existing public rights of way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um

          But isn't most of that cost a matter of acquiring rights of way

          Probably not. If you consider the topography of much of Northern and Western Britain, there's a problem with anything that is ground tracking at c700 mph. The gradient changes would incur significant vertical loads on the tube and supports which could be managed (at a cost) but you wouldn't have happy passengers when you pulled negative-g over every single summit you cross.

          Which means that the civils work to build a hyperloop route will be significantly greater than the sluggish HS2 which runs at one third of the speed. Potentially you're going to have to build a lot of tunnels, and immense viaducts, even choosing the easiest routes. Take the arc from Liverpool to Edinburgh, and see how they avoid the difficult Cumbrian terrain, but still have to cross the Pennines and the Cheviots.

          1. Paul Woodhouse

            Re: Um

            Clunk-Click or your going to be sick....

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Um

            "If you consider the topography of much of Northern and Western Britain, there's a problem with anything that is ground tracking at c700 mph."

            No problem, just start with 1,200 foot towers at each end and keep it level. Surely the unicorns can manage that.

          3. herman Silver badge

            Re: Um

            Aww man, don't confuse them with mere facts. Wishful thinking is so much nicer.

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        You have obviously not understood the bubble economy

        "How much is London to Edinburgh in Hyperloop going to cost?? And what volume of traffic and fares is going to justify it?"

        Just just generate enough hype to get the money from investors... then go bankrupt when the current bubble bursts and buy the assets again for a fraction of the original price.

        That's how we got the Iridium satellite system. That's how we got long distance fibre in Germany. (In fact near some Autobahnen you could find fibreoptic cables not yet dug because the company ordering it went bankrupt while it was being layed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You have obviously not understood the bubble economy

          That's how we got the Iridium satellite system. That's how we got long distance fibre in Germany

          That's how we got a lot of the UK rail network, during the "railway mania" of the 1840s, it's how we got the Channel Tunnel, and the HS1 link from the Channel Tunnel to London, the M6 Toll, and big chunk of the UK's cable networks.

          This is a peculiar thing about infrastructure - in any extended build out it does provide very, very long term returns, but these are often well below prevailing interest rates, meaning that the investment makes a loss. Something China is now finding out. Without all the "free" concrete runways that became available after WW2, civil aviation would never have grown in the way it has.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: You have obviously not understood the bubble economy

            " meaning that the investment makes a loss. Something China is now finding out."

            Bubble investment in land is certainly that way in China.

            Chinese govt investment in infrastructure (particularly the HS rail network) is pragmatic and well thought out. The kinds of mass movements which occur in holiday periods (especially chinese new year) already mean massive economic disruption and the improved railway network has paid for itself in dealing with that. The off-peak stuff is just gravy - and vastly improved transportation availability means that it's becoming practical for businesses to operate in the interior (where people are) instead of the coastal strips (requiring people be transported to the factories and accomodated)

            The USA's economic boom was closely tied to (and physically close to) the massive rollout of the military road network after WW2 (civilians call them Interstates). Chinese economic development is already showing signs of clustering around the high speed rail network.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. sawatts

      Re: Um

      Passengers as just ejected, Futurama style, at their destination.

      Wear a firm hat.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Economic and technical cases for most are beyond dubious.

    I am going to single this one out:

    Estonia – Finland. They have no clue what is running tunnels in that area. I suggest they go and see St Peterburg subway and the battleship like containment gates at every station which will isolate a section if there is a breach (with loss of lives of everyone in the section by the way). There is no "solid ground" there for hundreds of meters down - it is all slurry left from the ice age - muck with boulders size of a lorry floating in it. In order to drill the tunnels the slurry was frozen with liquid nitrogen and left to thaw after that (the tunnels are in fact floating in it). Under that you have solid granite which costs an arm, a leg and a prosthetic to drill through.

    A loop around Germany - is the only one which may work. Tectonically and teutonically stable with a long history of passenger rail :)

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Not that I am saying we must have one and it is the best thing ever, but why only Germany? UK is tectonically stable (afaik, I'm not a geologist, but where are our fault lines?) and has an even longer history with rail.

      You might even think that a hyperloop would get more public support than HS2, being out of the way and not cutting through some important bits of the countryside, and people's homes.

      Interesting tidbit about St Petersberg though, thanks for that.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        UK Fault lines

        The recent TV documentary on London's Crossrail showed that even in London there are fault lines.

        The N.W of england (around Barrow and heading S.W) is a geological nightmare.

        We stll get earthquakes (magnitude 3 or 4 max) even in southern England.

        The BGS geology viewer might help you a bit

        http://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/geologyOfBritain/viewer.html

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: UK Fault lines

          I seem to recall that somebody in the comments on a previous article on hyperloop pointed out how many people you could get in a hyperloop car compared to on a train, which seemed to make it impossible to be used as a mass transport system even if it was faster which would make it expensive beyond the point of making any economic sense whatsoever.

          It's like Concorde in that respect. Incredibly cool design and engineering work that delivers people really quickly, but makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever compared to the competition. I'd be surprised if hyperloop gets built on full scale honestly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: UK Fault lines

            I seem to recall that somebody in the comments on a previous article on hyperloop pointed out how many people you could get in a hyperloop car compared to on a train,

            All depends on the rate at which you can despatch the capsules. Because of the antiquated signalling and braking technology of surface rail, London Euston's fast lines can only despatch a Pendolino every three minutes, so that's 600 seats per three minutes, 200 a minute. You'd need to launch five 40 seat Hyperloop cars per minute to achieve the same despatch rate, or one every six seconds - or you increase the capacity of the cars (or run them joined as mini trains). With a "multi-barrel" launcher that might be feasible.

            1. Pedigree-Pete
              Pint

              @ AC ref frequency of departures

              @ AC ref frequency of departures. IIRC the biggest factor that delayed trains I used from Reading to Paddington was the passengers not preparing to get on/off and leaving doors open. PP

              Icon: for the great platform managers @ RDG & PAD.

          2. Graham Jordan

            Re: UK Fault lines

            https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2016/05/12/hyperloop/#c_2862875

            That's the one you're referring too. I bring this same argument up myself when talking about Hyperloop to friends. Brilliant post.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: UK Fault lines

          "The BGS geology viewer might help you a bit"

          Dammit! I've got a fault running more or less under the house!

          1. Kane Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: UK Fault lines

            "Dammit! I've got a fault running more or less under the house!"

            How's your house insurance premiums going?

        3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: UK Fault lines

          We stll get earthquakes (magnitude 3 or 4 max) even in southern England.

          Kent earthquake, we will rebuild

          I do understand that for a pressurized tube this would work differently, but still cannot resist.

        4. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: UK Fault lines

          They're going about it all wrong. Why try to build a vacuum underground when we already have a perfectly good vacuum in space? Just run the pipe 100km above the earth and there's no need for an expensive tunnel.

          So, who's investing then?

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: UK Fault lines

          "We stll get earthquakes (magnitude 3 or 4 max) even in southern England."

          In geological terms the Southeast of England gets regular large quakes (5.8-6.5 or so every 350-450 years) and as it happens is more-or-less due for one "any day now" (the sequence centred in the Channel ideally should have had a bump in the last 200 years but nothing big enough has happened, which makes any likely quake that much more likely to be larger than smaller)

          This sequence is recorded in recent history - 21 May 1382, 6 April 1580 - there should have been one in the last 100 years, but it hasn't happened. As SE England isn't built for them, the effects are going to be devastating (buildings were only generally made of brick/stone after the Great Fire of London and increasingly so in the last 200 years - but with no reinforcing)

          These intraplate quakes are caused by africa colliding with europe. Think of them as ripples. :)

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Boffin

        UK Fault Lines

        Here would be a good place to start.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: UK Fault Lines

          Here would be a good place to start.

          I was going to suggest displaying them on a map would be more helpful. Then realised it would just look like a 3 year old's scribble!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        You might even think that a hyperloop would get more public support than HS2, being out of the way and not cutting through some important bits of the countryside, and people's homes."

        Hyperloop, at least in current theoretical planning stages, is not an underground. At speeds of ~700mph, in a crowded country like the UK, it's going to go through a lot more houses than HS2 since curves will need to very, very gentle. It can't just wiggle past towns and villages.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Tectonically and teutonically stable ?

      Afraid not, like most of Northern Europe it is pretty stable but it does also have fault lines and even volcanoes.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        I see they mention the old chestnut of Spain to Morocco.

        That crosses the divide between two tectonic plates. It will be an engineering wonder if something that works gets built there.

        1. herman Silver badge

          Well, the bridges in Istanbul work. Apart from the occasional shaking, tectonic movement is extremely slow.

          1. detritus

            "Well, the bridges in Istanbul work. Apart from the occasional shaking, tectonic movement is extremely slow."

            Until it's not...

            http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/737752/New-Zealand-earthquake-Christchurch-aftermath-land-moves-fault-rock-formation

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "That crosses the divide between two tectonic plates."

          Lots of engineering projects do, and there are few shear forces going on there so it's relatively straightforward

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am going to single this one out: Estonia – Finland.

      I suspect the main flaw is that a good proportion of the routes have no obvious high volume traffic potential. The population of the Finland and Estonia are low, and the intra-country traffic flows limited. For the 90km mostly underwater route I'd guess the geology is less challenging than building sub-surface on land. This "build it and they will come" approach appears to have been replicated elsewhere, eg the proposed Scotland to Wales route. Have they ever been to either place? Have they looked at the traffic flows? Have they considered what travel rationale there might be for traveling from one to the other? The Spain to Morocco route appears to have plenty of (one-way, non-paying) traffic potential, but I can't see the economic case.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Total travel time?

        > a good proportion of the routes have no obvious high volume traffic potential

        Yes, and the places that do, are already served by airlines. Given that LHR - EDI only takes 1h15m it is questionable how much people would be prepared to spend to shave half an hour off that time. Especially when it is not obvious there would be any actual saving, once travel to/from the terminal, check-in, security scans and all the other inevitable delays are factored in.

        I reckon the main use of this would be for freight, not people.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: Total travel time?

          @Pete 2

          I reckon the main use of this would be for freight, not people.

          Why the heck would freight need to get from London to Edinburgh in 50 mins? Ice-cream without refrigeration?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Total travel time?

            Why the heck would freight need to get from London to Edinburgh in 50 mins? Ice-cream without refrigeration?

            Fast food, obviously..

            :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Total travel time?

          Er, what about the 10years of your life it takes you to get to and then thru heathrow/luton/standsted/gatwick and then into edinburgh the other end?

          1. Pedigree-Pete
            Meh

            Re: Total travel time?

            Last time I flew to and from Edinburgh (-Luton) given an extra 20 odd mins I could have done the whole 450mls from parents home to my home in the comfort of my own car and no queuing or prodding. PP

        3. Steve Todd

          Re: Total travel time? @Pete 2

          The problem with your 1h15m flight is that (1) you first have to travel out to the airport, (2) you have to negotiate your way through checkin/security, (3) you and your fellow passengers all need to board while your luggage is placed in the hold. (4) your aircraft needs to push back from the stand, start its engine and taxy (slowly) to the runway, (5) fly the route, (6) land and taxy to the stand, (7) you need to walk from the aircraft to the baggage claim area. (8) you need to wait for your luggage to turn up, (9) you need to walk from the baggage area to public transport and (10) you need to travel in to your destination.

          if you have any change from 3 hours when making that 1h15m flight then I'd be surprised. Trains let you load and unload your own baggage, have stations close to the centre of cities and don't require the same elaborate security. A 50 minute journey shouldn't take you much more than an hour.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Total travel time? @Pete 2

            The problem with your 1h15m flight is that (1) etc.

            Some of these would apply to your Hyperloop. The taxiing is replaced by vaccing down and re-pressurising the airlock. I assume that if you have luggage it'll have to be stowed properly so as not to be a hazard under acceleration and deceleration so you wouldn't just be allowed to trundle it on board yourself.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Total travel time? @Pete 2

            Steve Todd, all of the parasitic activities you get with flying, you would also have with Hyperloop. There is still getting to the station, strip search, baggage handling (I haven't seen any Power Point hallucinations on how that's going to be handled), pumping down the entrance tube, picking up luggage, getting a rental car, getting from Edinburgh to Glasgow where you really need to go and etc.

            I always reserve an entire day for a trip of that length just to accommodate delays. I mostly drive now anyway. By the time all of the non-travelling activities are factored in, I can be at the destination or darn close and have my car to get around. I'm also not rushing to be everywhere by a certain time. When I finish the purpose of my trip, I can hop back in the car and head home. For variety, I'll take the train if there is one. Traveling by train is much more civilized.

        4. Richard Boyce

          Re: Total travel time?

          "I reckon the main use of this would be for freight, not people."

          The likes of Amazon may be interested, but most freight is more sensitive to cost than to delivery time.

        5. Pedigree-Pete
          Meh

          Re: Total travel time?

          @ Pete 2. Is it just me that remembers LHR-EDI being 45-50mins? I don't remember either airport moving far enough to justify an extra 30 mins! PP

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Add Corsica-Sardinia to it. I wonder how many passenger would use that route.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "The Spain to Morocco route appears to have plenty of (one-way, non-paying) traffic potential, but I can't see the economic case."

        If you can carry freight, then there's a screaming case for it, given the volumes of such going northwards.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      teutonically stable

      I rather like teutonically stable :)

  3. Baldrickk Silver badge

    you rock much harder than Shelbyville

    Monorail, monorail, monorail [sing it with me] Monorail!

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: you rock much harder than Shelbyville

      "Monorail!"

      And dammit, you beat me to it. Every time I read about Hyperloop, I think about that episode.

      http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/simpsons/images/5/59/Springfield_Monorail_2.PNG/revision/latest?cb=20100218022854

    2. Ralph B

      Re: you rock much harder than Shelbyville

      Monorail!

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: you rock much harder than Shelbyville

      Nothing wrong with monorail if you do it properly.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: you rock much harder than Shelbyville

        "Nothing wrong with monorail if you do it properly."

        I travelled on that a few times back in the early 80's. Even got a trip on the Kaiserwagon. A rather unique experience for my then late teens :-)

        I even got a presentation set including a first day cover commemorative stamp for some anniversary or other (75th?). No idea if it's worth anything though.

  4. Redstone

    Whatever the technical merits/flaws

    The problem will always be politics and NIMBYs. HS2 anyone? In the time it took to even get that approved(ish) the Chinese have built something like 8000 miles of high speed rail.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

      Yeah, but when the Chinese built one of their hydro electric plants, they just displaced an entire settlement and flooded the valley. We could follow their example, if you want to start throwing out compulsory purchase orders.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

        There's also the fact the Chinese rail network, like most other things at the time, was mainly a publicity stunt. What can you say of their actual use and the return on the investment?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

          What can you say of their actual use and the return on the investment?

          Pretty good and improving all the time since they got the hang of large-scale infrastructure management.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

            What can you say of their actual use and the return on the investment?...Pretty good and improving

            Come off it Mr Clark. I think you know better. China has a desperate problem of excess infrastructure investment as a driver of the country's economic growth plan, vast amounts have been and are being wasted on roads to nowhere, ghost cities and airports without traffic.

            https://www.ft.com/content/b1d9177c-7650-11e6-bf48-b372cdb1043a

            http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2016/09/china-ghost-towns-developers-run-money-160914084316042.html

            http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/10/15/446297838/chinas-white-elephants-ghost-cities-lonely-airports-desolate-factories

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

              @Ledswinger I was referring more specifically to the intercity rail network, which after a dreadful start, is now being reasonably managed. Otherwise, sure, China is full of infrastructure white elephants. But which country doesn't have its fair share of those? Robin Hood or Kassel-Kalden airports perchance?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

                Operating a rail network well is not really the same as building a sensible one, is it? Inevitably, what China are finding out the hard way is that the returns per dollar or per km or route shrink when you just keep building. A classic repeat of the railway mania, and in many ways of the Soviet Union's five year plans.

                ...white elephants. But which country doesn't have its fair share of those? Robin Hood or Kassel-Kalden airports perchance?

                I can't speak for Kassel Kalden, but Robin Hood was for many decades a military airfield, so to build an additional big shed, and call it a civil airline terminal hardly meets the criteria of a white elephant, does it? It's the same with Newquay Airport, or Manston. I'd give you the Humber Bridge. But that's not in the same league of the multi-billion dollar excesses that China has gone for, and if you added up every pointless public or private project across all of Europe, including Greece and Spain, you'd still only have a rounding error on the Chinese over-build.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

                  But that's not in the same league of the multi-billion dollar excesses that China has gone for, and if you added up every pointless public or private project across all of Europe, including Greece and Spain, you'd still only have a rounding error on the Chinese over-build.

                  It is still out of whack if you take into account that China is a tad larger? Just curious.

                2. Richard Boyce

                  Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

                  Speaking of white elephants, they don't get much more expensive than the International Space Station. No chinese involvement in that, AFAIK. We could've had a huge number of interplanetary probes and landers for what that cost, and the cost is still rising because noone will cut the losses lest the prior waste be more obvious.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

          "There's also the fact the Chinese rail network, like most other things at the time, was mainly a publicity stunt. What can you say of their actual use and the return on the investment?"

          Figuring the ROI for the Chinese rail network would be a good Master's Thesis. Transportation infrastructure ROI can't be calculated purely on the fare box return. Where the railroad goes, goods can flow in and out along with people creating new opportunities for growth in regions that were previously too expensive to get to. The recent documentary on Crossrail pointed out how property values have shot up along the line the closer to completion the line gets. It's been a common theme throughout time in Britain.

          The problem with a Hyperloop from London to Edinburgh is that the route is already served by roads, rail and air and the Hyperloop design is not conducive to multiple stops along the route. With that caveat, ROI is heavily dependent on the fare box. If the system isn't running at it's maximum capacity all of the time, the ticket price is going to be unrealistic; even more so than it would probably be with full utilization.

          Money spent on a Hyperloop would likely be better spent on connecting Heathrow, Gatwick and London city airports by tube so it would be possible for people to get to any major transportation hub on public transport and off of the roads. The same thing could be done in Scotland. Getting between north and south is already covered in multiple ways.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

        "Yeah, but when the Chinese built one of their hydro electric plants, they just displaced an entire settlement and flooded the valley. We could follow their example, if you want to start throwing out compulsory purchase orders."

        To be fair, that's actually them following our example - try looking up the Llyn Celyn reservoir. The Chinese tend to do it on a larger scale, but the UK government has always been happy to drown or pave over various villages and other private land if they think they can get away with it. And not just in the past - Heathrow's third runway, the M4 bypass around Newport and HS2 will all involve ploughing through people's houses and land. You can argue about whether it's justified or proportionate in various different cases, but compulsory purchases and displacing people from their homes is certainly not unique to the Chinese.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

          "try looking up the Llyn Celyn reservoir"

          And various Pennine reservoirs.

          1. BongoJoe

            Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

            And then after the Llyn Celyn reservoir it was decided that it wasn't needed and was an awfully big mistake anyway.

            One of the less brilliant decisions by the government, I have to say and, as it happens, I am about five minutes away from it sttting in a motorhome.

        2. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

          Quite. Maybe it's different in the US or in Siberia, but I don't think anyone can built any large-scale infrastructure in Europe by simply waiting for all involved private parties to sell their lots at their own convenience...

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Whatever the technical merits/flaws

            "I don't think anyone can built any large-scale infrastructure in Europe by simply waiting for all involved private parties to sell their lots at their own convenience."

            OTOH we don't really think it was right when some C18/19th landowner decided to relocate a medieval village because the peasants were spoiling the view from his new house.

        3. Pedigree-Pete

          Compulsory Purchase...

          Rutland Water anyone? PP

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why is the UK forced to have 2 lines when other countries escape with none? And if Scotland does break away from England, where will the passport checks be held and that will negate the 50 minute trip up North.

  6. imanidiot Silver badge
    Trollface

    But after brexit...

    What would be the benefit of fast travel if you get stuck at the bordercrossing into Scotland and the EU economic zone from what remains of the United Kingdom?

  7. nigglec

    Something less drastic maybe

    Rather than a full national scheme why not build a short proper proof of concept route.

    Something like Heathrow to Gatwick (air side to airside). I know the time/speed savings won't be as much but I can't see a completely new technlogy that would cost billions extended to the whole country before some shorter routes are done.

    1. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: Something less drastic maybe

      This is an excellent idea - sadly with different companies running the two airports I'd say the chances of co-operation were just about nil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Something less drastic maybe

        Yes ... seem to remember a few years ago someone trying to suggest that the solution to the perenial Heathrow 3rd runway was to build it at Gatwick but also construct a dedicated LHR<->LGW transport link alonside the M25 - can't rememebr whether this was rail or may even have been a dedicated bus route.

        And taking it a step further ... when British Aerospace were trying to turn their Filton site into a new Brisol Airport (i.e. one that was actually in Bristol) I think they suggested that with a regular shuttle bus from there to Bristol Parkway then HST to Paddington that it could as close to central London as Heathrow (nb. this was some years ago before the Heathrow link was built + when HST's went a bit faster than they do now ... there used to be one that left Parkway a 8am, stopped nowhere and arrived at Paddington at 9am!)

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: Something less drastic maybe

          If you're just going from Gatwick to Heathrow, no need to go to this much expense. Simple tunnel with a regular train will do. (simple is a relative term!)

        2. Pedigree-Pete
          Pint

          Re: Something less drastic maybe

          @ AC. Bristol Airport not in Bristol. Good point well made. PP

          Have 1 for Friday.

    2. BongoJoe

      Re: Something less drastic maybe

      "Rather than a full national scheme why not build a short proper proof of concept route."

      May I suggest Manchester to Sheffield as an alternative?

      The rail system is hopeless and having to go over either Woodhead Pass or Snake Pass to get to the other city is a nighmare especially for the poor sods living in Mottram.

      The M25 may be much maligned but it gets people from one to the other rather quickly and there's nothing between these two Northern cities that compare.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Something less drastic maybe

        "The M25 may be much maligned but it gets people from one to the other rather quickly"

        Not always in my admittedly limited experience but your point is well taken. There is a study going on about new tunnels for Manchester-Sheffield. I can only imagine they surveyed one of the routes some time ago when Winscar was drained to repair its leaks because one route seemed to run underneath it. Or maybe through it.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Something less drastic maybe

      Maglev would be a better alternative if you want to go with a newer technology. A Hyperloop wouldn't spend anytime at speed between the two airports. All of the time would be spent accelerating and decelerating (I know, same thing, different sign).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    London to Edinburgh in 50 min

    what for? Unless they want to send (English) riot police to stop that independence referendum. Then they'd better start boring fast, like, I don't know, 20 years ago... What, no time machine?! Who cares, once invented, we'll go back in plenty of time to start boring...

    p.s. don't forget the glass elevator! I mean, somebody's got to make money off that stuff before apple patent it!

  9. Solarflare

    It's all well and good...

    I mean honestly, to begin with it sounds like a great idea. Fire a capsule along at high speeds in a vacuum, allowing for very high speed public transport - it could end up being more useful than even air travel, potentially.

    There's just one small issue, there is no evidence that it is possible, let alone practical. Hyperloop is a back of a fag packet idea which has been marketed before any real work has been done on designing the thing. Sure, there are plenty of 'artist impressions' floating around, but to be fair Elon Musk has had little to do with it other than "Here's a concept, why don't people go and see if they can do it?" yet it is commonly touted as being one of his finest endeavours. There is one test that I am aware that has been done for Hyperloop and that is building a short vacuum pipe and having different teams design cars to run in it. The cars were put in to the tube with something to get them moving to start with after a 45 minute or so period to create the partial vacuum. The main issues that highlighted was 1) The designs did a very poor job, most stopped once they stopped being pushed - I think one managed to carry on for a bit longer, but still I think it reached peak speed of about 80mph whilst being pushed... 2) If it takes that long to create a partial vacuum in that small a section of tube, how difficult is it going to be to design and build a mechanism to have airlocks across a massive network which is all under massive pressure due to all the vacuum pipes?

    Hyperloop, nice idea, but honestly, it really does seem like a Simpson's Monorail. I'd prefer Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook invest in showing the world it just won't work rather than us bankrupting ourselves over it.

    1. MR J

      Re: It's all well and good...

      You wouldn't need a complete vac.

      I cant see the airlocks being an issue at all... Probably the worst issue will be the time involved in getting a seal either on the doors of the train, or of the section of tunnel itself.. Once the whole thing has pressure removed then it shouldn't be that difficult to keep the pressure out..

      There is plenty of evidence that it is possible. Schools used to seal a tube with a feather inside and you could watch it fall quickly due to the lack of resistance. As to it being viable... Who knows, I don't see it happening for a long time. I see it being more useful for things like small freight shipping, but I think It would be too expensive for that. I am glad someone is at least toying with the idea, if it will happen in my life is another story, but at least someone is toying with the idea.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: It's all well and good...

        I cant see the airlocks being an issue at all...

        You might be a in minority there. There's a world of difference between maintaining a vacuum in a school lab, lab conditions, and doing the same on an industrial scale in the real world. Look at some of the problems they have to deal with at CERN and that's a tiny installation in comparison.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all well and good...

        I see it being more useful for things like small freight shipping

        You mean, like pneumatic tube postal delivery?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatic_tube_mail_in_New_York_City

        Sadly I see no need to have a 50 minute courier service from London to Edinburgh. And even if there were a demand for it, it would be far cheaper to fly a plane every 30 minutes. Plus you can have it today, and easily scale capacity up and down, and add as many different termini as you like.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: It's all well and good...

      I have to concur, it sounds nice but...

      Supposedly they are building a test pod that's near the size of a 75 passenger Embraer E170/175 but only carries 28 people. Even if it comes in a 1/3 the cost of the Embraer it's still going to run in the $10M+ range and will have upkeep, inspections, and service costs. I assume it will be reasonably equipped with at least a lavatory as delays are a potential unknown. Then of course there will be regulations, as there always are, such as will it have a fixed service life such as that imposed on airframes?

      Even if you get past all the other technological hurdles one was pointed out to me that convinces me it's a non-starter and that's that it seems nobody has done the thermal analysis of the pod. It was put to me this way, the hyperloop pod is the interior of a thermos bottle with lots of heat generating equipment inside including air conditioning equipment and there is no place to offload that heat. It was mentioned that it would have a water tank on board that could be used to store the heat but how much water does one need to lug around or does it get turned to steam with all the issues associated with having a superheated pressure vessel on board. Even ignoring the safety aspect of having a high pressure steam bottle inside an evacuated tube it seems a lot of luck will be needed to simply not cook the passengers before they arrive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all well and good...

        does it get turned to steam with all the issues associated with having a superheated pressure vessel on board

        It appears you just accidentally solved the propulsion/brake question..

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: It's all well and good...

        The pod couldn't have a loo in it. It would require servicing and the passengers need to remain strapped in for the entire journey. If the train needed to stop due to a tube bulkhead not opening or a vacuum leak, anybody in the aisle would be propelled (from a certain frame) into the front of the pod. Maybe it would be more correct to say that the pod would be decelerating quickly while the passenger remained in motion at the pod's previous velocity. A mess to clean up anyway you look at it.

  10. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Stop

    Twaddle!

    This is never going to be built. There are so many ways it can fail with fatal consequences. If just one bolt falls off, the next car will slam into it at supersonic speed. See what happened to Concorde. If there is a breakdown on a sunny day everyone will be cooked before they can be evacuated from the tube. etc. etc.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Twaddle!

      I suggest that a maglev will be far more doable and cheaper. Just use graphene! At least until flying cars come along and then we won't need mass transit at all because they'll be safe, cheap and efficient and everyone will have at least one each. Except the homeless. They can always call an Uber.

  11. MR J

    Tech came before Elon

    The ideas of VacTrains came over 100 years ago. Electric cars are nearly 200 years old.

    I love that the supporting tech has finally developed enough to make some of this stuff reality, and I am glad someone is willing to put money into these things, but we really shouldn't credit Musk with inventing these wonderful ideas.

    Magrail + Vactube + strong_and_superlightweight_materials = Orbital Ring.

    Once the tech catches up then we could see such a thing in the sky, but it's not so much "Musk" or the first person to finance it who is the visionary, it is the fact that times have moved on and someone had enough money to piss away on the idea.

    It wouldn't be wise to build this in the UK. Take the actual cost, then double it... Add in local NIMBYS who make it take longer and double the cost again... Election coming up - hold off on all work but make it look like the other side is stalling the work, try to get people to elect you so you can get it built... These delays w ill probably only Double the cost again... Wait, after all these delays some ministers son now owns land, patents, and the only uk production rights to some specific components needed for it to be produced in the UK, tack on another 10%...

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      "Magrail + Vactube + strong_and_superlightweight_materials = Orbital Ring."

      ...and in the mean time we could start testing the concept with a low-altitude near-ground version held aloft by Zeppelins! We have the tech, we can build it!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Tech came before Elon

      "The ideas of VacTrains came over 100 years ago. Electric cars are nearly 200 years old."

      Mmmm...Victorian vacuum train, leather seals and lots of lard!

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Tech came before Elon

      Uh oh, somebody else has caught on to Elon's modus operendi. Take an old concept that was sitting around waiting for material science to catch up and make everybody believe it was his idea. Profits? We don't need to make any stinkin' profts!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't worry about costs. Brexit will finance this EASILY!

    And clearing the passport queue at Edinburgh won't take much longer than 45 minutes.

    And it won't be a target for terror deeds. Not at all.

  13. Rande Knight

    BANANAs

    People here will protest the building of ANYTHING visible.

    And due to the public consultation process, it doubles or triples the cost of doing anything.

    Windfarms are just fine...as long as they are over the horizon from the highest point on the coast.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: BANANAs

      … and never visible from some MP's home or favorite holiday spot.

  14. R3sistance

    Demonstration

    Given how they can't even demonstrate that this works on a smaller scale, how is anybody hoping it'd work on a larger scale? Can anybody remember the tests they held on like a half mile section where almost all the test trains failed and those that did work, were miserably slow... This pipe dream needs to be laid to rest, it doesn't work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Demonstration

      how is anybody hoping it'd work on a larger scale?

      I suspect that the reason for this plethora of EU ideas, and links between different small countries is to get interest and development funding from government and EU bodies, and the plan and hope is to build a proper sized trial in Nevada at the expense of taxpayers (in the US, EU or anywhere else). If somebody would pay for a real world trial, then that'll be even better, just a lot more expensive.

      If Hyperloop said "lets build London to Paris", governments would say "lovely, that's a commercial route, we like your proposal, now you fund, you build it". Now got to Estonia and say "we can connect you to Finland without touching Russia", and both governments go "Oooh, lovely idea, what do we need to do to help you make it work?". The Scotland to Wales proposal could be seen as an attempt to suck up feasibility funding from the devolved administrations. And the loop around the Netherlands - why bother? The bulk of the Dutch population live in a triangle around Amsterdam, the Hague and Arnhem that has sides of about 70 km, and the rest of the country has much lower population densities. So why suggest the idea, other than to a government who might fund the development to link up all the places nobody wants to go?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Demonstration

        @Ledswinger

        The problem in the Netherlands is exactly this concentration of the population. If the entire country is within 1 hr travel range then working in Rotterdam while living in Groningen becomes an option (or living in Limburg, but who would actually want to do that...) for instance. Much is the population density within the "randstad" region as we call it is a result of the simple fact that a large proportion of the non agricultural jobs are located there. And thus most of the non-agricultural workers live nearby.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Demonstration

          or living in Limburg, but who would actually want to do that...

          My dear boy, you have not lived until you have tasted our vlaai, and you were only too quick to adopt our carnival (that is, the drinking part, not the culture behind it). In addition, you may want to pick up the only tonal language in Europe, which sounds a lot smoother that the regurgitating throat scrapes required to speak high Dutch.

          As a neat side effect, people from around here usually also speak German in addition to English, if not fluent than at least usable, and are able to understand the less comprehensible Swiss German as it has the same root. We also know about open borders because we've had those for decades, and we were saved from Americans inventing myths about little boys with fingers in dikes because our bit is less prone to flooding.

          Add to that that people don't spend most of their morning commute parked in a large ring around the Randstad region that rather resembles London's M25 on a slow day and it's not a bad place to be.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Demonstration

            @AC,

            I have tasted vlaai, I don't do carnival (neither the drinking nor the culture) and I'd rather speak any other language than the speach impediment that is Limburgs. Additionally I also speak german well enough to be understood. I also already live well outside the Randstad because I can't stand the rush and tumble of the region. What I however also can't stand is the pigheaded, closed culture of the Limburgers. In any other region in the Netherlands it's possible to atleast be somewhat accepted into the social structure of the village/club/region. Not so in Limburg. If you're not born there and speak absolutely flawlessy in a incomprehensible limburgish accent you'll never be a part of anything.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Demonstration

              If you're not born there and speak absolutely flawlessy in a incomprehensible limburgish accent you'll never be a part of anything.

              Could be a long argument, but yes, there are some rather insular groups here, but if you've ever worked in Amsterdam without being able to speak with a sharp "G" (and I have) you'll have experienced the same there - I don't think that's regional, or even specifically Dutch. You'll find the same in the German speaking part of Switzerland (although trying to speak the language does help in my experience) and in HK you'll always remain a gweilo, whereas especially closer to the Mediterranean parts of Europe you're a friend as long as you are moderately sane, social and child friendly :).

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Demonstration

                Well more or less yes. I have however had more luck making friends or atleast aquintances out of for instance Frysians (Not exactly the most amicable bunch), Amsterdammers, Rotterdammers, Tukkers and Groningers than I have had with Limburgers. (Though I will add is seems the south Limburg region around Maastricht seems to be somewhat more accepting than the northern regions)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Demonstration

                  Though I will add is seems the south Limburg region around Maastricht seems to be somewhat more accepting than the northern regions

                  There ya go - guess where I'm from? :)

                  I suspect this has to do with the fact that we have to get on with anyone on account of pretty much absent borders so we're not really hung up about differences. We're not above winding someone up, of course, but "Gemütlichkeit" is a way of life.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @R3

      I think that's the whole point. People in the US are growing weary of all this so it remains to be seen how much more funding they'll be able to get, so now it's time to try and exploit new markets.

      They might be in for a small surprise though I think.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: @R3

        The socialist government of California is still hot on building a $100B high speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A route that already has a gazillion flights each day between them for pocket change. The cost is likely to double since they don't have all of the land in between yet.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wake me up when someone builds a fully working TARDIS.

    1. d-type

      It would have been here yesterday.

  16. Kaltern

    With the negative sentiment in these comments... it's no wonder the UK is so far behind most other technically advanced nations. In the UK, we shut down innovation almost as soon as it's conceived - usually citing the holy trinity of Britishness - Cost, Environmental, Health & Safety.

    We've not had anything remotely new in the UK since the Channel Tunnel. And that could never be done/waste of money/completely unsafe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it's no wonder the UK is so far behind most other technically advanced nations

      In my experience, the UK isn't behind other nations. If you cherry pick your examples, you'll certainly find faster broadband, better mobile coverage, better railways, better roads, more airports, greater use of technology, higher R&D spend. But not in the same place. And other developed countries often have exactly the same sort of problems that we do, and many have worse broadband, slower railways, worse roads, lower tech use etc.

      The acid test is that if you really think the UK is such a technologically benighted nation, why not move to one of these places that are so much better?

      1. Kaltern

        I probably would. But, as your typically flippant reply seems to forget, not everyone has the option to just decide to move to a different country because they don't like the broadband speeds.

        It also seems my point was lost in the immediate need to vote down someone daring to knock our way of life. Which is fine... I moved from S. England to Scotland a decade ago. And while it is indeed colder and slightly more sheep per sq mile, and yes, unfortunately because Scotland is treated as England's slightly poorer cousin, we don't get QUITE the same technical advancements up here (it's astounding I get probably better internet than most of you in England TBH), the attitude of the (few) people I've met from my area just seems to be so much more... open than where I came from originally.

        Britain is not a friendly country - unless there's a disaster. We're pretty good at being friendly then.

        1. cambsukguy

          I love Scotland, its politics and its people especially.

          It's the damn weather that stops me (and others that have tried) living there.

        2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
          Happy

          @Kaltern

          A few weeks ago I was working in Lochinver. The broadband in my apartment was very fast, watching iPlayer was no problem. Considering I was about a mile out of town on the north side of the bay I was quite impressed.

          Edit: You *must* try the pies at the pie shop. Venison pie, yum!

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: @Kaltern

            the attitude of the (few) people I've met from my area just seems to be so much more... open than where I came from originally.

            Small population centres (villages and smallish towns) tend to be more open and friendly as people value knowing their neighbours.

            The larger the population centre, the less privacy everybody has so they tend to avoid communicating to give each other privacy. This comes at the cost of knowing the people around you.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I moved from S. England"

          Sounds reasonable.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Mushroom

    One little prick

    In the tunnel wall that is!

    You lose the vacuum with a train travelling at several hundred miles and hour.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One little prick

      And what.... you lose vacuum, you glide to a stop?

      What you should really worry about is what happens when the bag on the end of the vacuum gets full and you can't find a replacement... until we get the Dyson version, which will be made of fluorescent plastic and which will cost 5-20 times as much as any alternative.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One little prick

        until we get the Dyson version, which will be made of fluorescent plastic and which will cost 5-20 times as much as any alternative.

        I'm not very attracted by the idea of spinning around in a cyclone at the end of a journey until my speed drops enough to fall on a heap of other passengers. Yes, I know I'm picky.

        :)

  19. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    A luddite writes...

    From a techie point of view it's all cool and neat, even if the economics may be a bit iffy.

    What concerns me is the overall social impact and the tendency it will have to encourage more conurbations around the limited number of stops. People have been moving into cities for centuries for a variety of reasons, some of them good at the time, but we now have the potential infrastructure to reverse that trend. Why on earth should El Reg journos (or anyone else) have to spend an hour or more twice a day travelling to or from a job? Why do more than a handful of people need to travel from London to Edinburgh (or wherever) at high speed? Skype is even quicker, and no rubber gloves at the terminus! Explore your own neighbourhood before travelling to the ends of the earth to lie on a beach and read a book. Learn to savour the journey as part of your holiday. A hyperloop (or even a tunnel) to Dublin would be nice and fast, but I enjoy a few hours relaxing on the ferry.

    What was that thing about the soul travelling at the speed of a trotting camel?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A luddite writes...

      we now have the potential infrastructure to reverse that trend

      We do. But how would that go down in your neck of the woods, or any other pleasant rural location? With a growing population, a more distributed nation would mean less of the maniacal build, build, build in London, and a lot of new green field development elsewhere.

      I live in a former new town, so new build round me gets only limited opposition, but imagine if Ceredigion had to accommodate another 20,000 houses in its local plan? Announce 20 new "affordable" homes for a housing association, and there's little problem. Announce a 1,000 home development including the sort of houses people actually want to buy, and which would match the high value jobs Ceredigion currently lacks, and I suspect the pitchforks would be out.

      I'd say that a more balanced, more distributed economy would be a great thing with real benefits. But that would mean huge structural change, a lot more development away from the toxic crap hole inside the M25, rising house prices in the regions etc. I doubt that everybody would be happy.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A luddite writes...

        "But how would that go down in your neck of the woods, or any other pleasant rural location?"

        Probably about the same as all the roads that would be needed to carry all the extra traffic for ever-growing commutes.

        In my neck of the woods we had mills. When they were built there were also extra houses built because there was an influx of workers (it's not a new problem). The mills have closed. A few have been re-purposed for new businesses but on the whole employing rather less people per loom-space. The rest have been built over with houses. And a few more houses in in-fills. So local population has gone up, local employment has gone down. Public transport has got worse. The unimproved roads have to take the strain of commuting by car and, to be fair, it's not easy to see how the roads could be improved given the constraints topography imposes. What we've suffered from has been a lifetime's planning which has adopted the principle of separating places of employment and dwellings into different zones; the mess we have was actually planned. The situation being what it is I can't see how more work-places could be slotted into the area - topographical constraints again. If, however, it were possible to move some urban jobs into rural areas then the office space they occupy could be re-used for housing for the remaining urban workers. What we have now is the concentration of jobs into ever-growing urban centres which then need the towns and villages of over 1000 sq miles of surrounding countryside to house many of their workers with all the accompanying transport problems. It's not sustainable but it's yet another problem that government won't think about tackling. And that's without bringing increasing population into it.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: A luddite writes...

      What was that thing about the soul travelling at the speed of a trotting camel?

      Another saying which may be applicable here; never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly.

    3. BongoJoe

      Re: A luddite writes...

      <emWhat was that thing about the soul travelling at the speed of a trotting camel?</em>

      The point of a journey is not to arrive.

      - N. Peart

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: A luddite writes...

        "The point of a journey is not to arrive.

        - N. Peart"

        Yep, the point is to ride your motorcycle really fast on winding country roads.

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: A luddite writes...

          Yep, the point is to ride your motorcycle really fast on winding country roads.

          You do realise that this is going to baffle quite a number of people. Country roads, hyperloops, motorcycles? What gives? etc...

  20. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Hyperloop sucks

    A hyperloop tunnel is basically just a giant vacuum cleaner. Rather than sending people on journeys, couldn't Londoners use this to send all their garbage up to Scotland?

    Before the train gets sucked into the tunnel, just toss a few black bags of rubbish in, ahead of it.

    The only problem might be if the Scots start sending their rubbish back down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hyperloop sucks

      The only problem might be if the Scots start sending their rubbish back down.

      Already happened, its called "Royal Bank of Scotland plc".

  21. Putters

    Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

    In the 1840s-1850s atmospheric railways were running successfully with a motive force that was an evacuated pipe between the tracks. Ok not hyperloop sized, or pressure, but pulling partial vacuums down to half / third atmospheric pressure over pipes best part of 2 feet in diameter a couple of miles long. This despite said pipe having a slot with a leather seal in the top. Using a 100hp steam engine for the suction pump. Remember - we're not after a hard vacuum.

    And all this fuss about airlocks ? Make the stop a loop line. Train comes in, shut doors to tunnel front and back of it. Open vent in loop tunnel - the space round the train is small if the fit is relatively tight so not much air moves due to small volume. Open passenger doors. Close loop tunnel vent. Once all on board, shut passenger doors, open tunnel doors (marginal change to tunnel partial vacuum as air round train is small volume). Whoosh off.

    And why are some of you worrying about the train behind. At those timings having only one train in the inter-city section would be a frequency higher than many mainline routes.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

      Sorry, do you think you've solved the airlock issue here: 'shut doors to tunnel front and back of it.' <- That's the airlock, right there. So you've effectively said 'the airlock isn't an issue, just pull into the airlock'.

      Maybe you could draw us a diagram?

      1. Putters

        Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

        Well, yes, if you like, its an airlock - a train sized and, importantly, train shaped one. But there's nothing complicated about a decently sealing door at each end of a tube. It doesn't even have to be completely airtight. And you don't need all that pumping up / down to atmospheric / running tunnel pressures associated with normal airlocks.

        1. Putters

          Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

          Actually, thinking about it a bit more, you don't even need doors as such - just a seal (think like a grommet) that tightens round the extreme ends of the train once it is stationary.

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

            Right, so this seal, it needs to grip and release the carriage, and seal around whatever tracks are in place also. The only way I can see this working is if the seals are effectively little carriages themselves, molded to be the inverse of each end of the carriage. Maybe the final seal could be an inflatable skirt of some kind. The issue here is that this requires a bit of shunting, via some little devils horns curving off from the main track, so the seals can shunt in and 'pinch' the carriage. So this adds to disembarkation time, and the number of stops in the time frame quoted looks a bit iffy.

            1. Putters

              Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

              Re the seal

              So? Shunting is Victorian Technology, high speed shunting 1930s. Stopping in ATO under about the max braking you want for non strapped passengers to within 30 cm is 1990s LUL Central Line tech. Inflatable bag seals since gods alone knows when. Think of the carriage end overhanging the wheel arrangement by a couple of feet. Carriage fits within the tunnel to within say 15cm (1890s levels of accuracy for tube trains. Good smooth trackbed surface. The seal doesn't have to do much to hold 1 atmosphere over a 6" gap. Hell it could be carriage mounted.

              Stopping takes time anyhow, this leaves the running tunnel empty.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Overcomplicating it, aren't you ?

      "In the 1840s-1850s atmospheric railways were running successfully with a motive force that was an evacuated pipe between the tracks"

      The problem word in there is "successfully". The speeds achievable wouldn't be considered a success by hyperloop terms.

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    50 minutes travel. 2hrs in security.

    No duty free.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 50 minutes travel. 2hrs in security.

      No duty free.

      F*** that. Maybe they could loop the route undersea and outside UK territorial waters?

  23. PhilipN Silver badge

    Missing the point

    The objective of virtual / augmented / [insert latest buzzword here] reality is so I do not have to GO anywhere. I just put on my goggles and "virtual space" suit and it gives the sensation of being where I want to be. The sensation of going there too if I really (sic) want to experience a train ride. So my avatar sits in a meeting with everyone else's avatar and everything is the same - coffee and bad breath; uncomfortable seats and boring flow charts.

    I thought Sony had a camera years ago which could in effect digitise a whole city. Why would I want to sit on a crowded train to go to Glasgow if I can just "transport" myself virtually - and instantly - into the middle of town.

    Hmmm ... Virtual single malt gets a bit tricky though. That aside - I also thought IBM kicked off this whole virtual reality tourism some years ago with a digitised version of the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing. Anyone know what happened to that?

  24. Richard Gray 1
    Flame

    History repeats???

    What Mr Stevenson you think we should connect Stockton and Darlington by steam?

    Travel at 15 miles an hour!!

    Why would people want to travel that fast?

    It will never catch on! people say it can never be done!

    I for one think the Hyperloop would be a good idea. Removing long distance driving, Update the rail network for the 23rd Century, never mind the 22nd.

    "a small leak would destroy the train" in the same way a leak in a jet airliner would? I don't think so, a rapid slowing of the train but not much more than that.

    I think we HAVE lost our way for large projects in this country. For the past 100 years we have been at the front of the development of so many technologies, from rockets, to supersonic jets, to computers and networking, but we then fail to have the vision to do anything about it.

    Lets look for a return on investment not for 5, 10 or even 20 years... lets look for a hundred years, two hundred years, like the rail infrastructure (suitably upgraded) has been (if only they kept upgrading it enough).

    Lets move the transport projects out of London and into other parts of the UK, and by the way England does not stop at Manchester or Birmingham, and Scotland does not stop at Edinburgh or Glasgow.

    As to the guy who only suggested Skype, I'm sure your mother would be ecstatic to have a Skype call on her birthday as opposed to a visit from her children \ grandchildren. This kind of transport is not only for businesses, but, like rail travel and air travel before, for holidays, families and a chance to explore the country without spending 20 hours in a sodding traffic jam!!

    That's it rant over....

    I need to cut down on my coffee and donuts.

    1. RealBigAl

      Re: History repeats???

      It's been tried in Scotland before...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennie_Railplane

      1. Richard Gray 1

        Re: History repeats???

        Also something similar in Cambridge

        http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/cambridgeshires-space-age-hovertrain-float-12605298

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracked_Hovercraft

        if not full blown hyperloop perhaps revisit something like this???

    2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: History repeats???

      Check out the time they put an elephant in the carriage!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuppertal_Suspension_Railway

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: History repeats???

      "I think we HAVE lost our way for large projects in this country."

      You're right. We've absolutely abandoned perpetual motion machines.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: History repeats???

      At a certain point, speeding up the actual long transportation part of a journey becomes a much smaller percentage of the overall trip and the cost rises exponentially. There is still the obligatory strip search and removal of anything valuable in your luggage and the dearth of security personnel manning the checkpoints at the busiest times of day requiring the arrival at the terminal at least 2 hours previous to departure. When you arrive at your destination you have to haggle with the car rental firm that suddenly doesn't have the economy car you reserved but will be happy to put you in luxury car for "just a bit more". Then there is the long drive to the place you want to be.

      I'd rather spend the entire day on the train. I can get up, walk around, go to the cafe car for tea and a bun and use the lavatory anytime I wish as there is no seatbelt sign. There is also about 1/2 meter more leg room. At least it feels like that much more. I don't see how being strapped in standing up with a full safety harness and no drinks trolly is very civilized even for a short trip.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: History repeats???

        At least you seem to live in a very SMALL country. For small countries, rail is more viable. Now imagine if you were in a large country like the United States and had to do say a New York-to-Los Angeles run. A flight takes five hours give or take time zone differential. A train takes two days, and for many time is more important than comfort (deadlines and all).

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: History repeats???

          It does help when you do run trains at 3 figure speeds.

          England and France hold all four absolute records between them.

          Steam 4468 Mallard

          Diesel 43102 & 43159

          Gas Turbine TGV 001

          Electric TGV 4402

          The US needs a system like the French TGV network. And the British have been running Diesels every day at 125mph for 40 years.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: History repeats???

            "The US needs a system like the French TGV network."

            Impractical. One, the distances are too long. Two, geography interferes because the US has two significant mountain ranges in it (high speed trains tend to require very gradual changes of angle and pitch), some of which house cities (how would you do a route to or through Denver, which is in the middle of the Rockies?).

  25. RealBigAl

    The real journey time for an Edinburgh to London Hyperloop

    will depend entirely on the replacement bus service.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: The real journey time for an Edinburgh to London Hyperloop

      OH thanks! I almost sprayed tea all over my monitor.

  26. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Commuter belt

    Do we really want to extend the London commuter belt to pretty much the whole of the UK? There would be nowhere left with remotely affordable housing for those of us not on an overinflated London salary.

    1. Kaltern

      Re: Commuter belt

      I'm afraid those who live in London consider the whole of the UK as a quaint little town adjacent to them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Commuter belt

      Perhaps that should be taken as a sign that the whole population's gotten rather too large to sustain if the land prices are getting too high...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Commuter belt

      "There would be nowhere left with remotely affordable housing for those of us not on an overinflated London salary."

      But who needs an overinflated London salary if they can live much more cheaply 100-200+ miles way?

      1. druck Silver badge

        Re: Commuter belt

        Unless you've not noticed, London house prices follow anywhere where people who can commute to London live.

  27. katrinab Silver badge

    Crossrail was first considered a lot earlier than 1999. The first serious mention of it was in 1941, that is about the same stage that we are at now with Hyperloop. The Government first had a look at the idea in 1974. The first proposal to go to parliament was in 1991. The second attempt got consideration in 2001, went before parliament in 2005, was approved in 2008, shovels arrived on-site in 2009, and it should be completed by 2019.

  28. Caff

    Irish Sea

    Wonder would a better route be Dublin - London ? Could also deliver freight if it took in fishguard and rosslare

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still waiting

    For hyperloop to move even one person one metre. Till then, this is the best vapourware ever

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Vapourware

      Surely you mean Vacuumware?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Vapourware

        "Surely you mean Vacuumware?"

        You forgot to allow for the leaks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still waiting

      "For hyperloop to move even one person one metre. "

      Well, they've got a 500 meter test track and say they expect to make their first test run in the first half of this year.

      The clock is ticking........

      On the bright side: maybe they haven't moved an actual person, but they seem to be moving some cash if they can build that track.

  30. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    But...

    But I don't want to go to London at any speed. Besides, I thought we were all "telecommuting" by now?

  31. herman Silver badge

    It is quite pointless really. A vacuum tube is not much better than a streamlined train.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Can you perhaps substantiate your supposition by supplying some numbers comparing the losses of energy and fuel due to drag?

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Sub orbital ballistic rocket/plane.

        See many? No, we see aircraft flying at high altitude. It does not need to be a vacuum, but at the same time, it does not need to be a tunnel. An aircraft already manages the fuel savings from the lower air resistance without the infrastructure setup along the route (just needs embark/disembark and of cause airport).

        Do hydro foil boats save on fuel/drag? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrofoil

        I suppose they do. How many/how popular/how lucrative are they in commerce though? Same problem here. Concord and hydrofoil/hovercraft were faster but were they required or is there a demand or return in investment?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Concorde wasn't BIG enough, and as for the suborbitals, I think the big problem is that the higher you go, not only do you lose air pressure, you lose OXYGEN (part and parcel since oxygen is part of the air), making it hard to light the oxygen-dependent jet fuel you need to propel yourself. Not to mention the aerodynamics change the further you get from the troposphere. Finally lifting anything UP costs, dearly, in terms of energy expenditure. The higher up you try, the more effort it takes. That's why space flight is so tricky: the acceleration needed is incredible if you look at the numbers. Aircraft at ~35,000 feet probably represents the optimal expenditure of effort to get hundreds of people from A to B at any given time. Can this equilibrium change? Possibly? Will it be by the Hyperloop? Probably not, or we'd be seeing more pneumatic delivery systems for smaller objects like you see at places like hospitals.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Concord and hydrofoil/hovercraft were faster but were they required or is there a demand or return in investment?"

          Maybe the time wasn't right for them. Hydrofoils can be tricky, mechanically, where shallow draft is required, ie the most popular commuter routes, so now we have high speed water-jet powered catamarans instead, some carrying 100's of passengers per trip.

          Concord and hovercraft suffer two main problems. Fuel consumption and noise. New tech should mitigate both of those to some extent, but maybe not enough to balance the pluses with the minuses, especially as compared to the existing competition.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Charles 9, you also have to factor in the energy in creating and maintaining a vacuum in the tunnels. Any service will mean breaking the vacuum in a section of tunnel that will need to be pumped down again. It's not a question of whether there will be leaks, it's a question of how much it will normally leak and how much pump capacity it will take to keep up.

        A huge unknown will be maintenance costs.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          "You also have to factor in the energy in creating and maintaining a vacuum in the tunnels."

          Exactly how much energy would it take to evacuate a tunnel, given we evacuate things all the time. Plus, what if energy was saved by only ensuring a partial vacuum?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "It is quite pointless really. A vacuum tube is not much better than a streamlined train."

      But doesn't need to be so pointy.

  32. BoldMan

    Load of old... um... new bollocks(tm)

  33. MJI Silver badge

    More likely to

    Up gear a 91 to 400mph, double the ECML overhead to 50,000 volts and use one carriage.

    Would probably wreck something, but it is more realistic than Hyperloop.

    For information a 91 will do 160 while hauling or pushing a train.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overkill

    Providing the sole requirement is to move Body A from one point to another, Trebuchets and Railguns require minimal infrastructure.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Overkill

      And with today's tech we could do a ballistic rocket deployment right NOW. I mean Elon even has the reusable launch vehicle ready... and the "pod" as a dragon (mrk1 or 2).

      Perhaps this is the plan? Sign everyone up to Hyperloop knowing it will fail, but knowing you can bounce them back to SpaceX, because they'd balk as sub orbitals being launched at every city... unless they'd committed and promised the funds/voters/populace already?

      Thinking about it, the pod for the hyperloop does sound about the right size for a Dragon capsule... and a ballistic delivery would only need the parachutes/retros to land, a smaller heat shield and the second stage would not be needed for "local" locations.

      Still, icon for when it fails...

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Overkill

      Now add the requirement of said body (potentially very soft and squishy) being able to get to point B intact and alive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overkill

        If you add that requirement, it is no longer "Body A", but "Person A".

        Instead of scope creep and over engineering, focus in the positive: The terror only lasts for a little while.

        Which is pretty good ad copy too, if I do say so myself.

        "A brief moment of stark terror followed by sweet oblivion. "

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Overkill

          Person is a subset of Body, so it's still a body. Plus using Body also accounts for squishy-but-dead stuff you may will want to see intact at the destination.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It does have an excellent backup option

    If the tube loses vacuum, all you need to do is disconnect it and angle it upwards so it becomes the equivalent of a potato cannon. As long as the other end is also pointed upwards to catch the carriage and slow it down again, that is.

    Might get some complaints about the "foomp" sounds and screaming passengers, though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It does have an excellent backup option

      Soundproofing can take care of those annoying little problems.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Tech came before Elon "

    Not the same thing I know, but just because it is interesting: There was a subway built in New York City where the car was moved by air pressure in the tunnel. I believe that tunnel was rediscovered some years back.

    The post offices in Paris were at one point connected by pneumatic tubes.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A series of tubes

    Nah

    Sucked in!

  38. grumbler
    Facepalm

    Car springs a leak?

    Lots of talk about the tube losing it's vacuum, but what if the car springs a leak and exposes all the passengers to hard vacuum?

    On an aircraft the pressure differential is much lower, so oxygen masks are all that is required, plus the pilot will lower altitude within a few minutes.

    Would the passengers be required to wear astronaut style pressure suits?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Car springs a leak?

      Current Hyperloop plans only call for a partial vacuum, and in the event of an emergency, more air can be admitted into the tube (still a partial vacuum but enough oxygen to work with), making it closer to the airliner scenario.

    2. grumbler

      Re: Car springs a leak?

      So I did a bit of googling and apparently the pressure inside the tube will be 0.1% atmospheric pressure which is the equivalent of 170,000ft altitude.

      What would be the effect on the human body if it were to be exposed to that?

  39. spot

    Missing links

    The Northern loop should obviously terminate at Dublin after the Liverpool stop.

    The Dublin to Marrakesh Holiday Line Special calling at St Ives, Brest and Marbella isn't listed either.

  40. strum Silver badge

    >your correspondent first read about the idea that became the Crossrail project when living in London … in 1999

    It's a lot older than that. I arrived in London in 1969 - and Crossrail was being mooted then...

  41. Super Fast Jellyfish

    What about the Transatlantic route?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_Through_the_Deeps

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