High Speed Two promises to slash the time taken for trains to cover the 200 miles between London and Manchester to 68 minutes. But, by the time the line opens in 2032, will this be considered a snail’s pace?

Earlier this month, Elon Musk, the US-based entrepreneur who founded the PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, unveiled his proposed near-supersonic transport concept –  ‘Hyperloop’. Using magnets and fans to shoot capsules floating on a cushion of air through a long tube, Musk says Hyperloop could cover the 380 miles between the US cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco in a mere 30 minutes. Musk estimates that it would cost $6bn (£3.9bn) to construct this solar-powered line.

Capsules could depart as often as every 30 seconds, travelling at up to 760mph, nearly the speed of sound.

In a paper outlining the Hyperloop proposal, Musk explained why he had developed the concept: “When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and [NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory] – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?

“Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.”

He added: “The underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one. It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving.”

Musk expects to build a prototype of the concept, but not immediately because he is busy with SpaceX, his commercial space project.


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