Inventor and founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors Elon Musk has promised to reveal the design for his revolutionary Hyperloop transport system by August 12. Musk has heralded Hyperloop as a “fifth mode” of transport, after planes, trains automobiles and boats.
Evasively describing it as a “cross between a Concorde and a rail gun and an air hockey table”, Musk maintains that Hyperloop could carry passengers from central LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes, a journey that would necessitate speeds of over 685 mph (1,102 km/h). The construction cost of this service, Musk claims, would be around $6b – ten times cheaper than the proposed high speed rail service covering the same route.
In an interview with PandoDaily in July 2012, Musk stated: “it would cost you much less than an air ticket or car, much less than any other mode of transport, because the fundamental energy cost is so much lower. And I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it … you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries.”
Talking to Bloomberg in September 2012, Musk said: “What you want is something that never crashes, that’s at least twice as fast as a plane, that’s solar powered and that leaves right when you arrive, so there is no waiting for a specific departure time … I’d like to talk to the governor and president about it, because the $60 billion bullet train they’re proposing in California would be the slowest bullet train in the world at the highest cost per mile. They’re going for records in all the wrong ways.”
So far Musk has revealed that Hyperloop’s “pod” would be around two metres in diameter, that it will not require rails and that it could hypothetically function above or below ground.
Revised plan for London Euston Terminus
Further controversy surrounding the Department for Transport’s proposed HS2 high-speed rail link between London, the Midlands and the north of the country have been sparked by a recent report from the National Audit Commission.
The report warns that the economic case for the link was unclear, and claims to have identified a funding gap of some £3.3 billion above the current Phase One estimates of between £15.4 and £17.3 billion. It goes on to state, “It’s too early in the HS2 programme to conclude on the likelihood of its achieving value for money. Our concern at this point is the lack of clarity around the Department’s objectives.
“The strategic case for the network should be better developed at this stage of the programme. It is also unclear how HS2 will transform regional economies by delivering jobs and growth. The Department is trying against a challenging timetable to strengthen its evidence and analysis, which at present provide a weak foundation for securing and demonstrating success in the programme in future.”
However, Ministers hit back strongly with Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin rejecting the NAO’s core conclusions on the basis that they were based on a business case 18 months old. He commented that the report “depended too much on out-of-date analysis and does not give due weight to the good progress that has been made since last year. The case for HS2 is clear. Without it, the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and the North will be overwhelmed”.
It is hoped that HS2 will welcome its first passengers in around 2026, offering greatly reduced train times. For example, the DfT says that Phase One between London Euston and Birmingham will take just 49 minutes as opposed to the current hour and 24 minutes. HS2 Phase Two would see journey times between Birmingham and Manchester almost halved to 41 minutes, and times between London and Manchester reduced from two hours and 8 minutes to just one hour and 8 minutes.
Parsons Brinckerhoff, a division of Balfour Beatty, has won a two-year, £78 million (US$120 million) contract extension for programme management services on the California High-Speed Rail project.
One of the largest, most ambitious public transportation programmes in U.S. history, the project will allow passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour, making the trip in under three hours, compared to almost six hours by automobile. The first phase of the planned 800-mile network will run from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area through California’s Central Valley, with subsequent phases connecting to San Diego and Sacramento.
“The California High-Speed Rail System will transform the way Californians travel while alleviating freeway and airport congestion, reducing carbon emissions, and enhancing the state’s economic competitiveness,” explained Andrew McNaughton, Balfour Beatty Chief Executive. “With funding now in place, construction of the initial segment in the Central Valley is on target to proceed this summer.”
Parsons Brinckerhoff has served as the project’s programme manager since 2006 and is assisting the California High Speed Rail Authority with all aspects of the programme, including planning, environmental review, preliminary engineering, and testing and commissioning. Other key responsibilities include developing the criteria and technical standards that will define high-speed train systems, procurement of system-wide design-build contracts, and supporting the Authority on a range of project development activities, including economic impact analyses, business planning and grants.
Work continues on Saudi Arabia’s Haramain High Speed Rail Network, which will ease congestion and travel difficulties for visitors during the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. Construction on the large-scale project, which will span 450 kilometres, began in March 2009. Travellers will be transported from Mecca to the second holy city of Islam, Medina – a journey through Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, King Abdulaziz International Airport and Rabigh.
The network’s electrified double-track line will carry trains at speeds of up to 360km/h, with the 410km journey from Jeddah to Medina set to take around two hours, and the 78km journey from Jeddah to Mecca set to take less than half an hour. The civil works of Phase 1 Package 1 have been contracted to the Al Rajhi Alliance for 6.8b Riyal ($1.8b). The Alliance comprises of the Al Arrab Contracting Company Ltd, Al Suwailem Company, the China Railway Construction Corporation and French rolling stock and power firm Alstom Transport.
Phase 1 Package 2 will deal with station construction in Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, and King Abdulaziz International Airport; $38m of design contracts have been awarded to the joint venture of Buro Happold and Foster & Partners. Construction contracts for Jeddah and the Economic City stations have been awarded to Saudi Oger, whereas Mecca and Medina stations will be dealt with by Saudi Bin Laden Group.
Canadian firm Bombardier transportation has signed a €281m contract to supply traction and control packages and power car bogies for the project, and Spanish passenger train manufacturer Talgo will supply 350 trains. Spanish engineering firm OHL will build the base superstructure of the track, which will have to endure extreme temperature fluctuations and the interference of sand. The network is set to open in late 2014 or early 2015.
The 300km (190 miles) link due for completion in 2020 would reduce travel time between Singapore and the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, from 6 hours to 90 minutes.
The project will be built by private companies. A joint committee would start looking at the details, a joint statement said. “ The rail link was a “strategic development in bilateral relations that will dramatically improve” connectivity.”