A mere 34 km stretch back in 1853, between Bombay and Thane, took at least an hour to be traversed by the first passenger train in British India. It was led by three locomotives: “Sindh”, “Sultan”, and “Sahib”, which together schlepped the 14 railway carriages that had around 400 guests on board. It was considered a revolution in the transport industry back then.
A similar revolution for the transport industry in India at present would be the Hyperloop system. Why is it a revolution? It boasts of commuting from Mumbai to Delhi in only 55 minutes. Almost the same time it took for the train to reach from Bombay to Thane, a century back.
Proposed by the visionary genius, Elon Musk, Hyperloop includes a train system operating inside nearly vacuumed cylindrical tubes. The passenger/freight pods are magnetically levitated. They literally float over the rails, thus reducing friction and allowing it to achieve unbelievably scary speeds. The tubes are suspended above ground in order to make them weatherproof and safe from earthquakes.
Suspended magnetically, these pods are designed to minimise the frictional effect and glide effortlessly by using a custom electric motor to accelerate or halt them. Due to the low-pressure environment, these pods can attain a speed of over 1000 kmph. That’s faster than the average speed of a domestic airline.
The limping transport sector of India, which hasn’t seen many technological advancements, can receive a major push through this program and should consider it as a golden opportunity for both physical and economical growth. A situation where inter-city travel becomes easier and more efficient than intra-city travel is wholeheartedly welcomed. It won’t just give trade a boost – linking the landlocked states to the sea ports – but also provide the legions of service employees, a medium to commute to their offices from different states. As a cascading effect, this will also relieve the pressure of population on the employer state. A classic example is of Bengaluru. The city is literally on the verge of a collapse with traffic being a ubiquitous menace, and a shortage of water due to the high population density.
The first circuit has already been completed in the Nevada Desert. The test track has been named Dev Loop. If everything functions according to the theoretical plan, India could see its first Hyperloop network by 2021, linking Kolkata and Chennai as a freight corridor. The recent conference in New Delhi, which also had the presence of Suresh Prabhu, minister of railways, and Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, shortlisted 5 viable proposals for India’s debut. They are:
Bengaluru-to-Chennai: 334km in 20 minutes (AECOM)
Bengaluru-to-Thiruvananthapuram: 736km in 41 minutes (LUX Hyperloop Network)
Delhi-to-Mumbai (via Jaipur and Indore): 1,317km in 55 minutes (Dinclix GroundWorks)
Mumbai-to-Chennai (via Bengaluru): 1,102km 50 minutes (Hyperloop India)
Bengaluru to Chennai: 334km in 20 minutes (Infi-Alpha)
However, as the project is still at a nascent stage in India, the optimistic delivery date given by Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One, is bound to defer. With several clearances required, it’s going to be a herculean task. Further, laying of tracks and stations will require land. History is proof that land acquisitions are a major hiccup in India, with several projects already in a dormant state due to the same.
In a fast-paced economy like India, that craves for a good transport system, the market conditions for the incubation of Hyperloop One is perfect. It has done well from bringing an on-paper design to its practical testing stage. However, it will be more interesting to see if it manages to breeze through the largest democracy of the world and be voted as the most popular transport system in India.
In an era where people don’t have much time in their busy schedules, Hyperloop One is literally ‘selling time’ with its inventions.
A version of this post was originally published here.