I know that’s a pretty bold title to go with but Hyperloop will change transportation forever and inadvertently set off a £100 billion time bomb for HS2.
Let me start with what we are most familiar with.
The current state of the Uk rail network. Let’s be honest, it’s a bit of joke. Ticket prices already far exceed prices in Europe and are still rising twice as fast as wages.
Here’s an example. According to a report from Action for Rail, commuters between Luton and London St Pancreas spend 14% of an average monthly wage for a £387 monthly pass. Hop over to France or Italy and you’d pay 2.4% and 3.1% of wages respectively.
In summary, for all the good things about this country, unfortunately, the slow and ludicrously expensive rail networks are leaving a black mark.
This brings me onto the ‘powers that be’s’ ‘high speed’ solution.
The year is now 2017 so chances are you’ve heard a bit about HS2. If you haven’t then here is a couple of links.
Without going into too much detail here this stands for high-speed 2. This is the second phase of the brand new ‘high-speed’ rail network planned for the Uk. Notice the accentuation of ‘high-speed’.
Ministers say that the HS2 will both boost the economy and slash journey times leading to a hyper-connected Uk. Here’s the thing…’high-speed’ it is absolutely not and coming in at between £50-80 billion pre-construction not too economical (this doesn’t allow for inflation either).
Let’s put a bit of meat on the bone here.
The HS2 is proposed to run at a proposed 250mph. Great, sounds quick right? Compared to our current solution yes. It’ll cut journey times from Birmingham to London by 32 mins.
The problem comes when compared with other countries around the world. Before we get onto that let’s look at the cost.
The cost of Hs2.
Obviously building a ‘high-speed’ rail network comes at a cost. A cost estimate of a cool £105m per km. This will make it the most expensive railway ever made per km. Note that the first phase will be completed by 2026 and the second by 2033. This will be put into context in a second.
Some reports suggest the total cost could top £100 billion once completed. Sure you might be able to get from Manchester to Birmingham quicker in 2033 but you’ll also have to sell an arm as tickets won’t be cheap.
The completion date for the first and second stage of the HS2? 2023 and 2033 respectively.
HS2 vs The Rest Of The World.
If cost against % improvement isn’t enough to put you off let’s throw in some technology.
Taking inspiration from Henry Ford: we are building a faster horse while everyone else is building cars.
Ok ‘everyone’ may be a slight exaggeration. I like to think of the Uk as a reasonably technologically advanced nation. In the case of rail, we really aren’t.
First up, Japan and the Maglev train. It can travel at an eye-watering 374 miles per hour and it’s been running for a few years. To put this into the above context, this means we are going to spend the next 20 years and potentially £100 billion on a train that is 120mph+ slower?
If you want to see the magnificent maglev in action check it here.
Struggling to spot the logic here. How about take some of the £100 billion and hire the team who built the maglev?
This is pretty bad right? It gets worse, much much worse.
Enter, The Hyperloop.
Before I go into the implications, first let me explain briefly what the Hyperloop is.
It is a mode of transport which propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed.
The idea of travelling in tubes has been around for a while. It actually started to turn into reality back in 2012 when Elon Musk proposed the idea. Following this, Musk released a white paper in 2013 giving the idea and plans away to anyone who wanted to take it forward.
The proposed speed achievable by the Hyperloop…750mph at the top end and 600mph as an average. What was the cost proposed in Musk’s paper…$6 billion for a 350-mile route or £17 million per mile.
Compared against the Hyperloop the HS2 is 350 mph slower (potentially 500mph slower) and £83 million per mile more expensive.
You don’t have to be an economist to work this one out.
If you were thinking that the Hyperloop is just a reality on paper then, unfortunately, you’re wrong.
Different versions of the Hyperloop are already being built and tested around the world. Not by one company either.
The location of the first Hyperloop? Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi…12 mins. Read about it here.
The HS2 isn’t looking so ‘high-speed’ anymore is it?