Hyperloop, the 700 mile-per-hour train concept imagined by Elon Musk, could soon be coming to Europe. Plans to build a track between Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary have been initiated.
First revealed by Musk in a whitepaper in 2013, Hyperloop is a 21st century solution to the railway and could transport passengers and goods at almost the speed of sound. Plans to build a Hyperloop in the US are already pressing ahead, but this is the first such a proposal has been made in Europe.
Dirk Ahlborn, the chief executive of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies - not to be confused with Hyperloop Technologies, a company also working on making Musk's dreams a reality - said: "Slovakia is a technological leader in the automotive, material science and energy industries, many of the areas that are integral to the Hyperloop system."
A proposed route connecting Bratislava with Vienna would take just eight minutes, compared to the two hours it currently takes to travel between the two cities on public transport; it currently takes one hour to travel the 50 mile route by car. Bratislava to Budapest (currently two hours by car) would theoretically take 10 minutes.
A Hyperloop route connecting Bratislava to Košice on the western edge of Slovakia (250 miles) is also being considered,. This would take around 25 minutes, far less than the 4.5 hours by car it takes now.
A global movement
Ahlborn added: "Having a European Hyperloop presence will incentivise collaboration and innovation within Slovakia and throughout Europe. With our project in Quay Valley [California], this agreement with Slovakia, and future developments with other regions of the world, HTT truly has become a global movement."
"Hyperloop in Europe would cut distances substantially and network cities in unprecedented ways. A transportation system of this kind would redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe," said Vazil Hudak, Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic. "The expansion of Hyperloop will lead to an increased demand for the creation of new innovation hubs, in Slovakia and all over Europe."
The 700mph Hyperloop system is a railway which uses electricity to drive a train through a tunnel with its air removed, creating a low-friction vacuum and allowing for much higher speeds than on regular railways. HTT has nearly 500 staff working on the project, which it claims will be developed "rapidly" and "generate sustainable profitability, unlike most other transportation modalities."
In late January, Musk's SpaceX rocket making company will host a two-day Hyperloop pod design competition at Texas A&M University. Hundreds of school and college students will submit designs, with the winner getting $50,000 (£35,000) and a chance to work with SpaceX and Hyperloop Technologies, the other company also working on the Hyperloop train.