back to article Beardy Branson: Wacky hyperloop tube maglev cheaper than railways

Richard Branson, figurehead of all things branded Virgin, has opined that our rain-sodden island needs a hyperloop railway system. The billionaire Brit, who is non-exec chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme that a hyperloop "would end up transporting people far quicker, in far greater …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Just like Virgin Galactic & SpaceX

    >>Virgin Hyperloop One is a competitor of Elon Musk's Boring Company,<<

    This must be causing Elon such a lot of worry...

  2. macjules Silver badge
    Coat

    Has to be said ..

    Virgin on the ridiculous.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    Maybe.

    Let's hope, that the Bearded One can make a better job of it than he did with Virgin East Coast.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Maybe.

      Perhaps he's hoping that when it all goes Tunnel Inability To Support Unexpected Perforations that the Government will have to step in, take over and fund the thing long enough to find a new franchisor.

    2. Chad H.

      Re: Maybe.

      Well, that was actually Brian Souter in charge, and a lot of failures were due to Network Rail delays in upgrades.

    3. Pete4000uk

      Re: Maybe.

      Stagecoach actually run it, Virgin just brand it and send out patronising tweets and internal messages

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Maybe.

        So Virgin(a) is (are) innocent

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "about a third of building high speed rail"

    Erm, exactly how much hyperloop do you get for £18bn?

    Even £5bn doesn't buy you much road and tunnel

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: "about a third of building high speed rail"

      Even £5bn doesn't buy you much road and tunnel

      I wouldn't use the bungling fuckwits of Highways England as a benchmark for cost estimation or control, unless I wanted some MoD Abbey Wood style cost inflation.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "about a third of building high speed rail"

        I wouldn't use the bungling fuckwits of...

        And to think that I thought "The Men from the Ministry" was a comedy, and not a documentary

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "about a third of building high speed rail"

        >I wouldn't use the bungling fuckwits of Highways England as a benchmark for cost estimation or control

        I take it that you are being ironic? The record of public bodies suggests that they consistently under-estimate the costs of projects... Which may mean in turn that what the Beardy one is referring to, isn't the current cost estimate for HS2 but the final cost....

      3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: "about a third of building high speed rail"

        The 'fuckwits of Highways England' are a darn sight better at estimates than 'Notwork Rail'. For them, it is thingk of a large number and square it rather than just double it.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: "about a third of building high speed rail"

          The 'fuckwits of Highways England' are a darn sight better at estimates

          With Highways England, the problem is that their investment programme is not only fabulously expensive, but in many instances it actively worsens the traffic, or creates huge tarmac deserts in preference to proper, simple, intuitive road layouts, or expensively buys time because they'd prefer not to do the more challenging job of building a proper national trunk road network. It doesn't help that the pea-brains of the Department Against Transport and parliament interfere in the schemes and budgets, but even within Highways England's control they could do a whole lot better for less.

  5. J27

    Based on the cost of the most recent Japanese mag lev projects they're be lucky to build what they're proposing for 10x the price of that proposed high-speed rail project.

    1. Len Silver badge
      Happy

      I doubt Hyperloop will ever reach the levels of success that maglev has reached over the decades.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I assume...

        Hyperloop is just a pie in the sky idea for really getting into the tunneling industry. It will end up with normal tube trains, but side stepping regs and or patents as it will instead be called a hyperloop only by name.

  6. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    keeping the water out

    I was a massive achievement to keep the water out in the channel tunnel and before that under the Thames. Maybe they can keep the air out of a tube ?

    Fingers crossed they can make it work, progress is progress.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: keeping the water out

      Keeping air out comes down to pumps distrubuted routinely along its length and not just at the ends as the detractors would have us believe.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: keeping the water out

        Keeping air out under normal circumstances is the least of the problem Hyperloop has. Maintaining normal circumstances on the other hand. . .

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: keeping the water out

          I think they told us in school when we were about 11 that such an idea fails because rats chew the leather seals.

    2. HPCJohn

      Re: keeping the water out

      Leahroy, have you visited the Brunel Tunnel Museum? If you are ever in London you should.

      Also talking about engineering from past centuries, and vacuums, look up 'Atmospheric Railways'.

      In victorian times it was not certain that locomotive engines could have enough power to pull trains along. The first railway between London and Croydon used a vacuum system - the train carriages were connected vian an arm to a piston in a vacuum pipe. There were pumping station stations beside the tracks. The vacuum seal used leather flaps. The rats ate the leather. I dont think this was th eonly problem with these railways though!

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: keeping the water out

        And taking the Underround story a little further.

        When trains were updated, the maximum dimensions were calculated (important in tunnels :-)

        Then new trains were designed to conform with the maximum. Unfortunately when the original train/tunnel pairs were designed, engineers had realised that they could push air through the tunnels to improve air quality. This was something that does not seem to have been documented (or the origibnal documents were not read correctly). The new designs, while not hitting tunndels were also far less efficient at the 'push' and air conditioning needed to be installed/upgraded to make up for it, at some considerable expense.

        Interesting analogies with modern IT systems and requirements capture & analysis.

        Mines the one with a G scale garden railway ------------->

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Picking nits

    telegraph: "[Jeff Bezos] said he is liquidating more than a billion dollars a month to invest in his space company Blue Origin."

    Bezos is only burning $1G per year, not per month. This puts him well behind Senator Richard Shelby who gets through three or four billion per year.

    TheRegister: "[Beardy] gets flung into orbit"

    There is a big difference between the energy required to get to space (~1MJ/kg) and the energy required for orbit (~32MJ/kg). Branson is only offering trips into space, not into orbit. Bezos is doing both and has sent commercial cargo to space.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Picking nits

      There is a big difference between the energy required to get to space (~1MJ/kg) and the energy required for orbit (~32MJ/kg)

      Although I do believe you, 1MJ to get a kilogram into space seems remarkably little, given that a standard 51g Mars Bar contains 0.96MJ of energy - presumably as measured by combustion in a bomb calorimeter.

      So strap a Mars Bars to the underside of your 1kg microsat, add a suitable amount of oxidizer, and off you go!

      For low earth orbit, 32MJ would require 33 Mars Bars; however those will weigh 1.68kg themselves, so better buy a few more boxes to allow for the payload and oxidizer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Picking nits

        These numbers are correct. The unfortunate complexity (which means the actual achieved numbers are very different) is that you don't just have to provide enough energy to get to that altitude, nor just enough to get the necessary orbital velocity. You also have to propel yourself through the atmosphere to get up there, including propelling all your propellant through the whole process. You also have to overcome gravity drag as well. All of these are reasons you have to sit on a rocket full of propellant, rather than a mars bar or 2.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Picking nits

          The force of a device able to use the nuclear power equivalent of 2 mars bars in one go, would probably get you to orbit nicely. Building a capsule to survive such a blast may not be as easy though. ;)

          1. The Nazz Silver badge

            Re: Picking nits

            Must be something wrong with the calcs, a woman on our street can easily demolish four Mars bars (never been the same since they altered the recipe) at one sitting but can barely waddle from her front door to her car. So, no orbit then.

            Not all bad news though, judging by the number of visitors she has she must have a good trampoline installed indoors. An alternative launch pad?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Picking nits

              1kg ~= 10N, raised by 100km = 1MJ = 1 Mars Bar. Shame that we don't have an efficient way to convert chemical energy into potential energy.

              This does show that space elevators are pointless; saving that 1MJ of potential energy doesn't help you much if you still have to find another 32MJ of kinetic energy.

              A railgun though... if it could deliver 8G acceleration for 100 seconds, it would be 400km long. Maybe build a hyperloop tube up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Trouble is, even at that height, you still have half an atmosphere of pressure. The burn ups would be quite spectacular :-)

          2. ridley

            Re: Picking nits

            Been there should have done that? Well the design work was done in the 1960's see project Orion.

            See the excellent doc "To Mars by A-Bomb"

            https://youtu.be/xYoLcJuBtOw

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Picking nits

          "You also have to propel yourself through the atmosphere to get up there,"

          Well, that easily solved! You just build a hyperloop, Straight up. You don't even need to bore tunnels.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Picking nits

            "You just build a hyperloop, Straight up"

            But- that would suck all of the atmosphere up into space!!!

    2. Brangdon

      Re: Bezos is doing both

      Bezos current rocket, New Shepherd, is also sub-orbital hops only. He plans an orbital one called New Glenn, but it is years away from its maiden flight. He's not put any commercial cargo in orbit - at most he's done some brief micro-gravity experiments.

      Maybe you have him confused with Musk? SpaceX often sends cargo to LEO, GTO and the ISS. He's not put any humans in space yet, but hopes to by end of year-ish.

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    650 mph train in a vacuum tube hundreds of miles long. How big a terrorist bomb placed anywhere along the route would be needed to make a very nasty mess? They might even be able to trigger it from vibrations in the tube so it goes off just as the train is passing?

    Or a time bomb on board? You'll end up with a security delay before boarding that wipes out the time gained by the extra speed.

    If it goes off while the train is in a built up area the results would be appalling - a train masses much more than an aircraft, and at that kind of speed has a huge amount of kinetic energy.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      A terrorist bomb anywhere is going to make a nasty mess. Quite frankly if that's the best your local terrorist can come up with then we're in luck.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        A terrorist bomb anywhere is going to make a nasty mess.

        A terrorist bomb releases the energy of its explosives. A terrorist bomb that wrecks the maglev suspension or the vacuum seal as a train is passing also releases the kinetic energy of the train. Which at those speeds and at that mass is enormously greater than any reasonable terrorist bomb.

        Think of the damage done at Lockerbie for instance - the ground damage was not from the bomb at all, it was from the crashing plane.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          "releases the kinetic energy of the train. Which at those speeds and at that mass is enormously greater than any reasonable terrorist bomb."

          Which is great if your terrorists are keeping score measured in joules. We should encourage that approach. Unfortunately most terrorists seem to use other performance indicators.

    2. Saruman the White

      A time bomb (or suicide bomb) is possible. Triggering one from vibration is probably a no-goer since the "train" is flying through a vacuum without touching anything (that is what maglev is) so there is unlikely to be enough vibration to work with. However you do it, the result would be a very nasty mess!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Time Bomb?

      Can they send bombs into the future now?

      We're all doomed.

      1. el kabong

        Sending bombs into the future is easy

        Anyone can do that, just let the bomb sit there and moments later it will be in the future. So, no problem there, anyone can send a bomb into the future.

        Now, sending a bomb into the past, that would be an amazing feat, one that could have disastrous consequences.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Sending bombs into the future is easy

          "Now, sending a bomb into the past, that would be an amazing feat, one that could have disastrous consequences."

          I did once send some barrels of gunpowder back in time to the Houses of Parliament cellars, but I don't think it worked.

          1. Mongo

            >> I don't think it worked

            Just checked, Westminster's still there and has more knaves than ever. Are you sure it was gunpowder and not mislabelled "elixir of life"?

      2. Jonathon Desmond

        Re: Time Bomb?

        I think you mean “mayan meetan con with doom willen on when”

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hyperloop carriages are frequent and small, like a mini-bus. Set the bomb off whenever you want as the exact timing makes little difference, and you will get a handfull. The distributed pressure controls would then bleed air into the tube to decelerate and protect and separate the other cars in the loop.

  9. Milton Silver badge

    Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

    It'll be crunch time for the Virgin Galactic nonsense soon. Even if the new Vomit Comet system was safe—and there are good reasons for suspecting it will be nowhere near as safe as routine airliner travel, so FAA certification may never be forthcoming—you have to ask how many rich idiots will be willing to cough up tens of thousands of dollars to spend several hours in a nasty metal tube that goes nowhere. Yes, the spaceship-which-isn't goes up for hours, and eventually reaches an altitude of 100km+, arbitrarily defined as space. Yes, the aforementioned idots can have a special plastic Astronaut merit badge to admire as they sink back to exactly the same place they came from. No, the spaceship-which-isn't never goes into orbit. It can't fly in space. It can't deliver stuff to the ISS, or bring stuff down. It is a "spaceship" in the same way that a rowboat is a transatlantic passenger vessel.

    There are people doing fantastic work on real space travel, including SpaceX, Reaction Engines and Blue Origin. None of them are Branson. The whole Virgin Galactic thing is little better than an expensive, dangerous stunt. It has little to do with space travel and a lot to do with Beardie's love of superficial marketing bullcrap. (And I really hope he does not follow through on the idea of taking his kids up with him.)

    As for the HyperLoop twaddle ... same problem. It all sounds wonderful, lots of sci-fi concepts (the idea has been around for at least 100 years after all), impressive statistics about journey time, wildly optimistic predictions. But the devil is always in the detail, and there's an awful lot of detail to worry about. For Branson to suggest tunnelling will cost less than surface transport is bonkers. Tunnelling is horribly expensive and slow. Unless he (and Elon, for that matter) have built a molecular disintegrator plus autocementing reintegrator, their guff about cheap quick tunnelling will remain just that: somewhat embarrassingly daft guff.

    Which doesn't even begin to cover all the issues of permissions; surveying; geology; seismic analysis; proximity of fracking; environmental impact; safety of tunnels; risk sensor networking; escape routes (gonna evacuate a subterranean vacuum-train under the Pennines in 90 seconds, Beardie?); g-forces; emergency braking times; gradient and depth routing; turn radii; temperature and aircon management; routing, station and terminus decisions; maintenance intervals, rules, process, operational criteria and doctrine; pumping stations; power distribution and delivery; potential terrorism; signalling; software control systems; shall I go on and on, and talk about contingencies for fire, atmospheric contamination, power failure, structural distortion of train or tunnel; foreign object detection and mitigation, and on and on and yet on ...?

    After these childishly unrealistic wheezes are sent embarrassed to bed in a year or two, i wonder if Beardie will pop up again, blethering about, I dunno, Virgin Moon, offering jaunts across lunar seas aboard Selene "within just a few years" ...? Perhaps he just doesn't bother to talk to engineers before flapping his fur. Or maybe it's all just his addiction to empty marketing shyte.

    1. Anomalous Cowshed

      Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

      How dare you be so critical and sarcastic on a serious publication such as this?

    2. fpx
      Thumb Up

      Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

      As much as I agree with your article, Virgin Galactic is ... business. Branson is taking a gamble that there will be enough rich idiots to take the ride, and he is willing to invest a lot to make that vision a reality, in the faint hope that the enterprise comes out in the black eventually. It's not a bet that I would be willing to make with my money, given the long odds, but I admire him for doing so.

      We all know it's not quite the same as being in space, but it fills a gap between the vomit comet and going into orbit. It will be an experience that you can't have anywhere else, for any kind of money. Going into orbit is not available yet and will be more expensive by two orders of magnitude. So it's not completely idiotic to go.

      Either way, he gets good press off it, and that alone may make the losses tolerable for him.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

        there will be enough rich idiots to take the ride

        meanwhile in Blighty, lots of schools are on half-term holidays According to a report on Radioi 4's Today programme this morning, that means that some kids are going hungry as they won't be getting the school meals they would otherwise get, as there isn't the extra money in the family budget to make up the shortfall.

        Yep, the rich idiots can just head off into space with their money (and not come back). Fat lot of good it's doing for their fellow beings, not just in Blighty, but throughout the world

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

      "It is a "spaceship" in the same way that a rowboat is a transatlantic passenger vessel."

      And there are rich idiots who decide to row across the Atlantic as well. Just because something isn't particularly useful or sensible doesn't mean it's inherently bad; not everything needs to push the boundaries of human achievement. If you have enough money to spend a weekend being shot into space, what exactly is so bad about doing exactly that? Maybe all you'll get out of it is some cool photos and a badge saying you've been into space, but most people are happy to spend money on trips that get them significantly less than that.

      About the only thing that could really be said against it is maybe the money could be spent to do something more useful. But the same could be said about all money spent on any kind of entertainment, so it's hardly fair to single out occasional rocket trips when far more money is spent on just as trivial matters every day.

      I just don't understand why there always seems to be so much hate for Virgin Galactic. No, it's not a commercial satellite launching business, it's not exploring new worlds, it's not colonising Mars, it's not pushing the boundaries of space travel or revolutionising the industry. It never claimed to be any of those things. It's a tourist agency that offers to send people who can afford it to somewhere very few people have been. It's not meaningfully different from visiting Antarctica, or Everest base camp, or some random tropical island; just a bit more expensive and exclusive. Why is that such a terrible thing?

      Hyperloop, of course, is a steaming pile of bullshit, but that's a different thing entirely.

      1. ridley

        Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

        Well for one thing Virgin Galactic came into being shortly after Spaceship One won the X-prize in 2003.

        SpaceX was incorporated in 2002.

        Just what have VG been doing for 15 years?

    4. strum Silver badge

      Re: Usual Beardie/Virgin BS

      >For Branson to suggest tunnelling will cost less than surface transport is bonkers.

      I'm not sure Branson mentioned tunneling. Remember, Musk's initial proposal was for a surface-mounted hyperloop, on stilts.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Alien

    Branson/Assange

    has anyone ever seen them in the same room together ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Branson/Assange

      Yes but it was long enough ago not to count anymore.

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Branson/Assange

      Yes. And it was a sight i would never wish to see again, nor wish on anyone else.

      Gotta admit it though, Beardie Branson is a top guy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hyperloop? More like hyperbole. How on Earth could it be cheaper to put a train in a continuous airtight pipe hundreds of miles long, rather than simply running rails along the ground?

    Not to mention where would you route this in a crowded country like the UK? Hasn't Beardy noticed that HS2 has been massively delayed by all the objections from folk who don't want the thing anywhere near where they live?

    1. AdamWill

      presumably...

      "Not to mention where would you route this in a crowded country like the UK? Hasn't Beardy noticed that HS2 has been massively delayed by all the objections from folk who don't want the thing anywhere near where they live?

      well, you can argue that's an advantage for the hyperloop idea. If you can build the tube via tunnelling (not cut-and-cover) you could arguably put it in far more places, with far less objection from nearby surface-dwellers, than you can put surface rail. This is after all why we have the London *Underground* in the city centre, rather than sending trains through Leicester Square at surface level...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: presumably...

        " If you can build the tube via tunnelling.."

        There goes Beardy's promise of it costing "about a third of building high speed rail" then! ;-)

        1. AdamWill

          Re: presumably...

          "There goes Beardy's promise of it costing "about a third of building high speed rail" then! ;-)"

          well yes, that part does seem like utter and complete nonsense. I have no idea at all how you could possibly cost building underground rail by *any* method whatsoever lower than building surface rail. That's just obviously silly.

    2. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Its not you, its me.

      You've forgotten the fact you don't own the train, nor the lease on the tithe on the tithe's dividend, tracks however, just a figment of a correction, of allowed error margin on a rounded up spreadsheet print-out. You could have a rocket for less. #boringthatsthenameofthepriceisright #sixdecimalsorsixtybases

    3. Richard Simpson

      Land costs!

      "How on Earth could it be cheaper to put a train in a continuous airtight pipe hundreds of miles long, rather than simply running rails along the ground?"

      Can I start by saying that I am neutral on whether Hyperloop makes sense, particularly in the UK where it will be tough to get the tube straight enough, but to answer the specific question it is largely about land costs.

      A railway line consumes a huge amount of land. A double track is easily 10m wide and even more if you need a cutting or embankment. Buying all that land for your shiny new railway is mightily expensive, plus you have to keep building bridges so that roads can get under or over it.

      With a Hyperloop you bung your pipe on pylons so the amount of land consumed is much less. Most agricultural activities can continue underneath and roads can run under it completely unaffected. Also, it seems reasonable to suppose that the noise of the shuttle running through a low pressure tube will be much less than a huge high speed train running past so hopefully it can run much closer to houses, few of which will therefore have to be purchased and knocked down.

      Coming now to the question of "simply running rails along the ground". I deduce that you are writing from the 19th century when this was almost possible. Unfortunately, here in the 21st century, high speed rail lines need a huge amount of construction work. Considerable foundations are required to ensure that the rail surface won't sag or bend over time (depending on the local geology obviously) together with ensuring reliable drainage. Because we are no longer using steam, there is a vast infrastructure to support and supply electricity to the overhead lines and of course we need signalling and train safety systems to be installed as well.

      Of course, we could run our conventional railway line on a huge viaduct to allow cows to graze underneath, but apart from the much greater shadow cast on the ground, high speed trains are much heavier than Hyperloop shuttles so the viaduct will be vastly stronger, heavier, more intrusive and expensive than a Hyperloop.

      Bottom line: I am quite prepared to believe that the cost per mile to construct a Hyperloop is considerably less than that for a modern high speed rail line, but that doesn't necessarily prove that it would be a better solution for the UK.

  12. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Technological objections

    "Naturally, there are more than a few technological objections to these plans . . ."

    Well, that's a good reason not to do anything, then.

    "Airplanes are too dangerous -- what happens if they lose power?"

    "Rockets are too dangerous -- what if they explode?"

    "Microprocessors are impossible; how do you manage voltage at that level of miniaturization?"

    "Better not leave the house, might get eaten by bears."

    Etc. There's always a reason not to do something, and if we took all objections seriously, nothing interesting would ever happen.

    1. King Jack Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Technological objections

      How will they maintain a vacuum in a tube 100s of miles long? How will any of the mid way stations work? What happens if a seal breaks? How do you stop a bullet in a vacuum? What happens if the air pressure in the cabin fails? You are in a vacuum so all the air will be sucked out killing everyone before the train stops. How much power will be needed to suck 1000s of litres of air out? I don't think any of the above have been addressed. It's not a closed loop that you beam people into, people have to get on and off the train via a door. How many hours of wait time while the track ahead is cleared of air? It must work because I saw the beginning of Futurama. There are good reasons to do things. It normally starts with imagining the thing in question actually performing the task. Nobody seems to have given this any thought at all.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Technological objections

        "I don't think any of the above have been addressed."

        Well, I guess Virgin engineers should kill the project since you don't think they have addressed those objections (and presumably, more to the point, you think they are deeply stupid and never will). Like I said, always a good reason to stop a project in its infancy, that naysayers can't envision finding solutions to problems.

        1. King Jack Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: Technological objections

          It doesn't matter what I think, it is a pertinent question. A tunnel which is 100s of miles long will take huge amounts of power to suck out the air. As an experiment try to suck the air out of a plastic bottle (1 litre) it takes effort. Now times it by a 100 million and tell me how many pumps would be needed? If you put a door in the vacuum tunnel air will rush in. How do you get people in the tunnel which is a vacuum? Air lock I hear you say. Great, more pumping of air. How fast can you pump air out? The train which must contain air for the people to arrive alive at the other end must be air tight. What happens if it springs a leak in a vacuum? Explosive decompression. How strong do these trains need to be to withstand all that pressure. I've read and seen videos on Hyperloop and they never go near answering any of the above. The Hyperloop in use would be like going to the edge of space. Are the trains going to be mini space shuttles? It's a non starter until they work out these things and where all the power will come from that will take to make a 100+ mile tube become a vacuum. My opinion means nothing but don't let science spoil the dream. Go on Youtube and watch the progress of Hyperloop. You'll see a tiny rusty tunnel and tiny capsules that would struggle to hold a dog. The tunnels are not in vacuum. There are no pumps anywhere. You would think the testing would include that somewhere. I'd settle on seeing a 100-1 scale model working but no, nothing but a rusty pipe with water in it. Close your eyes and try imagining you going on the Hyperloop. Tell me how you get in the tunnel and out of it at the other end without breaking the vacuum.

          1. The Equestrian

            Re: Technological objections

            RE How strong do these trains need to be to withstand all that pressure.

            Wot? A whole one atmosphere? They do that all the time in orbit.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Technological objections

        @ King Jack.

        More to the point with all those hundreds of miles of vacuum tube just think how well you could deliver really fresh lamb to different parts of the world without having to go into space. The technical problems of delivering sheep down a vacuum tube would be braking sufficiently well for retrieval at the other end without having mince with wool in it.

        A very large catchers mitt with an arrest mechanism could be doable.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Technological objections

          "A very large catchers mitt with an arrest mechanism could be doable."

          A very large Yorkshire pudding soaked in gravy sounds feasible too.

        2. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Technological objections

          The technical problems of delivering sheep down a vacuum tube would be braking sufficiently well for retrieval at the other end without having mince with wool in it.

          spherical sheep in a vacumn?

          1. Boothy

            Re: Technological objections

            With the force of the inrushing air, just how fast will the train be travelling when it ploughs back into the station?

            It wouldn't, the pods aren't airtight in the tube, so this isn't like firing an air rifle. The pods are designed to travel in air, just not as fast as when in a vacuum.

            All that would happen is the train would slow down, have brakes applied, and stop. Might be a bit bumpy for a little while with the air rushing past, but basically the same as air turbulence on a plane.

            They would also have airlock doors every mile or so, (for ease of maintenance, and emergencies etc).

            So a break happens at 149 miles in, they stop the pods in transit, close the airlock doors either side of the break, to contain the air loss. Then any pods in the still vacuum parts of the pipes, before and after the airlocked section, are just sent on to, or back to. the next/previous station.

            Only people with any real issue would be if they were in the bit where the break was, but that section would now be in atmosphere. Assuming the power was still active, just maglev them slowly to the airlock, where they'd be a maintenance hatch, and by that point emergency services to grab them. Worse case, no maglev power, just wait for rescue, they pop an emergency hatch, and you walk to the nearest hatch.

            It's just engineering issues, so not something insurmountable.

    2. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Technological objections

      Think of it another way. Vacuum tube 300 miles long, station at each end. Train is approximately 149 miles into the tunnel.

      Vacuum breaks in the middle.

      With the force of the inrushing air, just how fast will the train be travelling when it ploughs back into the station?

      Besides, by the time it is built, we'll be so overcrowded we won't be able to get off of our streets in any case.

  13. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Philippa Oldham

    There's someone who needs to be congratulated on making a simple fact-based statement when the words running through her head probably included "delusional", "barking" and "funny if it wasn't so idiotic".

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just rename it "monorail", a sure fire success, ask Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, it put them on the map.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail

      Monorail

      Monorail

      Monorail

      Monorail

      Monorail

      Monorail

      Monoraaaail

      Monoraaaaaaaaaiiiiiil!

      Monorail

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail, monorail

        Mono! D'oh!

  16. revenant

    Who needs it?

    For the vast majority of us, getting from A to B in comfort at an average of say 100mph would be just fine.

    This thing sounds more suited to rapid transport of goods, which would have the added bonus of taking much of the existing freight off the motorways.

    1. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Re: Who needs it?

      Yep.

  17. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Reasons for high speed rail costs

    The reason high speed rail is so expensive is that the speed requires very straight and level tracks, with the consequent requirement to tunnel and bridge far more of the route than existing railways. Hyperloop would be worse, so I find it hard to believe it's going to be cheaper.

  18. DocJD

    Wacky?

    I saw no mention in the article of when or where Branson called this wacky. So the author, who has no credibility himself, is just inserting his own opinion, backed up by nothing, into the headline. Why not get back to us when you've done something successful?

    1. Colabroad

      Re: Wacky?

      It's almost like The Register is a tabloid styled publication with a penchant for irreverent headlines.

      Oh wait...

    2. AdamWill

      Re: Wacky?

      They successfully suckered you into reading the article and leaving a comment, for a start. Which, you know, is sort of their job, them being journalists and all.

      So...trebles all round?

  19. Hooda Thunkett

    I was going to ask how a high-speed rail system with a bunch of added parts, like tubes or tunnels or working in vacuum, could possibly be cheaper than high-speed rail without the added bits, but others here have done this so well before me.

    So you can ignore this comment. Move along. Nothing to see here.

  20. SVV Silver badge

    Cheapo Virgin Hype-o-loop?

    Tubular Balls!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheapo Virgin Hype-o-loop?

      I'm waiting for them to iron out all the teething problems.

      It will be Tubular Balls II that is a roaring success...

  21. spold Bronze badge

    As a Brit transplanted to Canada I'd have to say there are some obvious cheaper options they could learn from other countries. e.g. Run Bi-level train cars - sure you have to raise the height of the odd bridge or lower the rail grade that goes under them, but that's all relatively cheaper than these interesting schemes - and hey presto you just doubled your passenger capacity.

    Oh BTW there are parts of the Canada where "Better not leave the house, might get eaten by bears." is fairly sound if they happen to be in the neighborhood - particularly if you are out hunting penguins.

    .

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      "particularly if you are out hunting penguins."

      How very savage, back home we can still buy them in the snack aisle at the shops. Canada not looking so great now hey?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "sure you have to raise the height of the odd bridge or lower the rail grade that goes under them, but that's all relatively cheaper than these interesting schemes"

      It *might* be doable for bridges. But not for the tunnels. Most lines seem to have tunnels somewhere along them and that would require closing main lines for months if not years to upgrade them.

    3. AdamWill

      "Run Bi-level train cars - sure you have to raise the height of the odd bridge or lower the rail grade that goes under them, but that's all relatively cheaper than these interesting schemes - and hey presto you just doubled your passenger capacity."

      As a Brit who moved to Canada, er, I have to say Canada doesn't have much to teach the UK about passenger rail. The UK rail network may be a bit tatty around the edges but it still kicks the stuffing out of anything we've got over here.

      We can only run double-decker passenger cars in North America because our tracks are in such terrible shape the trains can't go very fast. Try it on the West Coast main line and you're just going to get bits of carriage all over the place in a hurry.

      Dunno which bit of Canada you're in, but out here on the West Coast, there are Amtrak trains and the Sounder trains down in Washington state that run double-decker cars. The maximum speed of the Sounder system is apparently 79mph. The Superliner cars used on Amtrak have a rated maximum speed of 100mph and I don't know if I've ever *been* on an Amtrak train that managed 100mph; the two west coast trains, the Coast Starlight and the Cascades, again top out at 79mph, seems to be some sort of pattern there.

      Pendolino trains on the WCML run up to 125mph, so yeah, not gonna work.

      1. Kevin O'Rourke

        Here in Sweden we have double-decker trains running at 125 mph. The French have the TGV duplex with a maximum speed of almost 200 mph.

        The problem isn't the speed, it's that you need a much bigger loading gauge for double-deckers to be practical.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The problem isn't the speed, it's that you need a much bigger loading gauge for double-deckers to be practical."

          And yet this is an option being seriously considered for trains on the Basingstoke / Waterloo line, with the possibility actually being mentioned in a leaflet given out to commuters a year or two ago.

          Part of the upgrade work is already done. There were footbridges which needed replacing at some stations and they have been replaced with taller ones providing much more height clearance, just in case the double decker plan actually happens. Pity about all the other bridges crossing the line that will cost a lot more to replace.

        2. spold Bronze badge

          Sweden double decker trains...

          Yes here the double decker GO trains are theoretically capable of 125 mph. However for economy, the load (typically 12 bi level cars these days) and the short distance between stations they typically max out at 87mph on the longest stints. On our Quebec to Windsor core route VIA trains by design can run at 125mph (yes this is historical in reaction to the Intercity 125) although for similar reasons they are generally limited to 117mph.

          I guess you could make tunnels bigger but that would be boring :-)

          The height ceiling is helped by incorporating the bogies into the car body so very low platforms allow boarding with the car floor clearance of about 2ft above ground which gives you a lot more space to work with.

      2. Portlandia vermite

        "Brit who moved to Canada"

        I live in Portland, Oregon and fairly recently took a lovely Amtrak trip to Detroit and back - three days each way and much cheaper than airfare.

        That said, I'm somewhat nervous whenever I take the train to Seattle to take in a Mariners baseball or Seahawks American Football game. There's a 40-mile stretch of fairly unstable earth well south of Seattle and annually there's either a mudslide or a derailment that closes the track.

        600MPH on the Pacific Coast? I'd like to see the movie when The Earthquake hits. I was watching the 1989 baseball World Series when the big San Francisco earthquaqe hit and pancaked a hundred-plus souls under the collapsed double-deck Nimitz Highway. No thanks.

        I don't understand the downvote(s) on Brit's post. Must not understand.

  22. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    The odd bridge

    I think you might be slightly underestimating the number of bridges* on the UK rail system.

    *I make it around 14000.

    1. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      Re: The odd bridge

      Yes but its not 14000 between London, Birmingham and Manchester is it?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reading between the lines this is simply the beardy one spruiking his latest business venture.

    Can we leave him and his bullshit in orbit?

  24. wolfetone Silver badge

    Richard Branson is 10lbs of shit in a 5lb bag.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      His bank balance would say otherwise.

  25. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Money is NO object.

    No doubt he wil use other people's money (ours) , demand more then bugger off just as everything goes iffy.

    Virgin on the silly.

  26. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Im really looking forward to Branson going into space.

    Less so of the coming back.

  27. JDX Gold badge

    I'm amazed that Hyperloop is still a generic term, and nobody trademarked it. How is that the case?

  28. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    'months away'...

    ... said the bearded one recently, about his allegedly forthcoming suborbital flight.

    What's the current altitude they are achieving? I thought they'd only got to a quarter of the required altitude, but with a 30 second burn, and they reckon 63 seconds for a full sub-orbital flight?

  29. Geekpride

    UK too small

    I can't see any fundamental reason why a hyperloop couldn't be built, there's nothing in it that requires unobtanium. Of course, that doesn't mean it's going to be practical or profitable, but that's for those trying to set one up to worry about. I'm also not sure the UK is the best place to push to be building one. As speeds are projected to be much higher than trains, longer routes would give the greatest benefits. The UK may be too small for this to be worthwhile, I think it would make more sense to try some trans-EU routes or intercity services in the USA.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: UK too small

      "Of course, that doesn't mean it's going to be practical or profitable, but that's for those trying to set one up to worry about."

      No, you just convince enough investors and Government that you can do it, take all the money, build it, fail to even come close to recouping the investment because the final costs spiral upwards, running costs are way higher than predicted and then the operating company goes bankrupt. A bit like the Channel Tunnel.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: UK too small

        Which has been a big success

  30. ukgnome Silver badge

    It is always nice to hear the opinion of a bearded tax dodging wanker!

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