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Aurecon 360 Issue 8 - Thinking in action

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Hyperloop the fifth transport mode? by Alex Pey Aurecon's Senior Transport Advisor. In this opinion piece, Alex looks at what future transport might look like. For those who missed it, the Hyperloop is a concept promoted by SpaceX and PayPal founder, Elon Musk, in response to an expensive and comparatively slow high speed rail (HSR) system planned in California. This proposed method of high speed transportation, which has yet to be proven in actual service, involves an elevated tube through which capsules move. Air is partially evacuated from the tube to reduce friction. The capsule rides on a cushion of air forced through multiple openings in the capsule's underside, further reducing friction. The capsules are then propelled by linear induction motors placed at intervals along the route. Hyperloop measures up On 12 August 2013, a concept design for the San Francisco to Los Angeles route was released. Travel time would be a hyper-fast 35 minutes: passengers would traverse the proposed 570 kilometre route at an average speed of just under 962 kilometres per hour, and a top speed of 1 220 kilometres per hour. Acceleration is proposed to be limited to 0.5 G-force, approximately equivalent to a car accelerating from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 5.7 seconds. In comparison, that is not quite as fast as an Aston Martin DB5 but a bit faster than your average family car. According to Musk, if significant investments are made in a new transportation system, then it should ideally be: safer; faster; lower cost; more convenient; immune to weather; sustainably self-powering; resistant to earthquakes and not disruptive to those along the route. At less than 10% of the cost of the proposed HSR system between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and with lower operating costs among other benefits, the application of the Hyperloop concept in other parts of the world is worthwhile considering. Could Hyperloop work in Australia? underpinning this high level assessment include: construction cost unit rates as per the concept report produced for the San Francisco to Los Angeles Hyperloop system; alignment length as per the Australian High Speed Rail report, i.e. 797 kilometres Brisbane to Sydney, 280 kilometres Sydney to Canberra, and 544 kilometres Canberra to Melbourne, and length of tunnels similar to the Australian High Speed Rail report, i.e. 140 kilometres, although the tunnels required for the Hyperloop are significantly smaller in diameter. On the revenue side of the equation, it is not unreasonable to assume fares equivalent to the leisure fare proposed for the Australian HSR. Arguably, you lose in scenery, you gain in travel time. Patronage has been based on the intercity patronage projected to use the HSR. These two key assumptions are not unreasonable for this initial high level assessment. The Hyperloop would be significantly faster than the proposed HSR for Australia; Brisbane A high level desktop assessment of the Hyperloop concept, modified for the east coast of Australia, shows such a system would cost in the order of AUD 20 billion to construct. The assumptions Figure 2 Hyperloop concept (Source: www.spacex.com/hyperloop)

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