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Europe’s longest hyperloop test track revives futuristic tube transport hype

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Europe’s longest hyperloop test track revives futuristic tube transport hype

Europe’s longest hyperloop test track has opened, rekindling vague hopes that maglev and vacuum tube transport technology could be the future.

Operators said the facility would help prove the feasibility of the hyperloop, saying there could be a 10,000 kilometer network of high-speed tubes across the continent by 2050.

As it stands now, the European Hyperloop Center’s test setup in Veendam is not so much a loop as a 420-meter-long, forked white pipe that runs along the track and the road and which for now has yet to be used to transport people around this corner off the highway. The Netherlands.

Made of 34 interconnected prefabricated steel cylinders measuring 2.5 meters wide, the partly EU-funded test pipe is slightly shorter than the 2-mile route planned in 2020, and allows speeds of just a fraction of 1000 km /u those proponents believe that technology can achieve this.

The test track at the European Hyperloop Center in Veendam. Photo: Hollandse Hoogte/Rex/Shutterstock

The fork in the Vandeem tube allows engineers to test what happens during a ‘lane change’ when a fast vehicle changes course. The first tests will be carried out in the coming weeks by the Dutch company Hardt Hyperloop.

The centre’s director, Sascha Lamme, said it was a “crucial moment”, telling Agence France-Presse: “You need this to create a network. The lane change is a divergent part of the infrastructure, so for example one part goes to Paris, the other goes to Berlin.”

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The idea of ​​the hyperloop was suggested in 2013 by Elon Musk, who proposed a line connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles using magnets to propel shuttles along pipes in near-vacuum conditions, where the lack of friction and air resistance would potentially allow vehicles to compete with the speed of aircraft.

His fellow tycoon Richard Branson continued to hype hyperloop with a company called Virgin testing a passenger capsule in the Nevada desert in 2020. He sold it and the renamed Hyperloop One collapsed last year.

While previous predictions for the hyperloop seemed overly bold, Lamme claimed that a pan-European network could emerge within decades. “If you look at how highways have developed over time, it’s exponential when the technology is ready. It should really be possible to get to a station in Amsterdam and travel to a city like Barcelona in two hours.”

Proponents say the hyperloop potentially offers cleaner, quieter and faster transportation, although passengers may be turned off by the idea of ​​traveling in a windowless capsule hurtling through an airless tube. Lamme suggested that the reluctance could be overcome with “a capsule with a nice ceiling on which stars or a nice sunny day could appear.”

Thanks to Europe’s innovation, the country may yet be able to keep pace with developments in China, which opened a mile-long test track for “low vacuum pipeline magnetic levitation technology” in Shanxi province in 2022, according to state media.

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