From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
There's been quite a bit of talk in recent months about 'The North' and HS2...HS3...and One North Report which proposes a new £15billion Rail Link and Transport System. The underlying principle of this to better connect us all is obviously great; I just have one question...if 'HS' stands for High Speed, why's it so slow!?
If we're spending £15billion and it's going to take until 2030 to complete, we're talking about investing in the future...so why are we spending that money on 200-year-old, 'out of date now' technology.
I was questioning metal wheels 'n' rails; sketching ideas for a train that rode on a cushion of air when I was doing my 'A'-Level Hovercraft Project at just 17...where's our sense of ambition gone, our imagination?
Fortunately there are others who think differently too...
The proposed Hyperloop concept is a 380mile line from San Francisco to Los Angeles with ‘Trains’ / Capsules running in a lowered-pressure, twin-pipeline at speeds of 750mph.
Now when we start talking about 750mph hover-trains, we instantly assume we're in fact having a conversation about some science fiction book or film, but Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop is very much founded in reality and he has recently released a 57 page pdf explaining the spec's and how all the issues can be overcome.
Still sounding like some sort of whacky inventors idea? Elon is the PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors guy...it'd actually be more ridiculous to bet against this becoming a reality considering his track record!
So, what are we talking about here?
A similar system connecting the 5 Northern Cities proposed in the £15billion ‘One North’ project would need a total estimated system totalling 264 miles of 'track' / pipeline.
If we assume a reasonable rate of acceleration and deceleration of 4 metres per second (that of an average family car) the journey times between cities would be:
Sheffield > Liverpool would be less than 15mins (including a 5min change)
Sheffield > Newcastle would take less than 20mins (including a 5min change)
Incredible, but surely that’s going to be Expensive?
The speed / journey times definitely impresses and we’ve covered practicality, so the only issue preventing us from starting work tomorrow is obviously cost right?
Now one might (quite reasonably) assume doing 750mph between cities is going to be expensive! Fortunately there’s a comprehensive breakdown of costs in the released information, which give us a real insight into what implementation would look like.
If we assume costs are roughly proportional to distance and that a total network for the north would be 264 miles…and that we'd like the better ‘Passenger, Vehicle and Cargo Transportation’ version of the Hyperloop system, it’d cost…
…this includes 30 passenger capsules (6 per line) and 20 cargo capsules (4 per line)…
…consideration of land acquisition costs and permits…
…and solar charging stations to power it…
…you ready for this…
…just over £3billion!
That’s a fifth of the proposed ‘One North’ scheme…a 1/5th!!
Even better, to create the Phase I ‘Triangle’ (SHF > MCR > LDS) would only be about £1.8billion...that’s a £600million contribution for each city.
As we’re looking at much shorter distances between stations and such short journey times, to reduce costs further there would not necessarily need to be a 'tunnel' / pipe going in each direction, as the loading of passengers would take place while the previous capsule was traversing the pipeline; although this would obviously have a significant affect on the passenger capacity per hour.
The Sheffield to Manchester line could potentially use the old Woodhead Tunnel, as it wouldn't affect the National Grid Cabling that runs through it in the way 'tracks' would.
An additional 'line' could be done from Sheffield > London for £2.2billion, creating a journey time of 15m 20s and making 'The North' truly connected to the capital.
The further addition of a Leeds > Edinburgh 'line' would cost £2.5billion and would take just 17m 20s; creating a total London > Edinburgh time of 50 minutes (including two changes of 6mins)...a journey that currently takes (at best) 4hours 40m by train and 1hour 15m by plane!
A 'line' from Leeds > Hull would be an additional £750million; taking just 6m 10s this could also be used to replace huge amounts of freight and logistical traffic from the roads, elevating congestion and pollution.
Elon Musk is actively looking for somewhere to showcase the technology.
And the cost for the passenger?
Just one last minor thing then (like you’d need any more convincing)…the estimated ticket price for San Fran. to L.A. is $20; so we’re talking 750mph intercity connectivity that runs as frequently as a bus service for the price of a pint!
Even without a 'line' / pipe in each direction the service would run:
Sheffield to Manchester line - every 10mins (6 an hour)
Sheffield to Leeds line - every 12 mins (5 an hour)
Manchester to Leeds line - every 10mins (6 an hour)
Manchester to Liverpool line - every 10mins (6 an hour)
Leeds to Newcastle line - every 15mins (4 an hour)
Now that seems a bit more like ‘the future’ of transportation to me, how about you?
Here's to a genuinely 'hyper-connected' North...with £12billion in its pocket!
Or even better, a connected United Kingdom for just £9billion!
With £6billion in change...