Is Hyperloop the future of high-speed travel?

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Source: BBC

“Yeehaw!” cries the rocket-engineer as he drives the all-terrain buggy hard over the rocks and scrub of the Nevada Desert.

With his big hat and moustache, he looks like a cowboy riding out over his territory.

The chap in the borrowed bright-orange quilted jacket, hanging on for dear life in the back, looks less at home. That’s me.

I had expected cold weather, but not the chill of hurtling through desert air at 6C in fog and rain.

The excitingly named Brogan BamBrogan – yes, he changed it; no, I didn’t ask why – is taking me on the very first tour of 50 acres (0.2 sq km) of desert that will, in the next year, become a test track for the Hyperloop.

Originally conceived by Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk, Hyperloop is an idea of colossal ambition and science-fiction proportions.

Passengers and freight will sit in pods propelled at high speed from city to city, inside low-pressure tubes on stilts above the landscape.

Spencer Kelly inside a Hyperloop tube
Image captionTravel in the Hyperloop could reach speeds of 700mph

“It will have a top speed of over 1,000km/h [620mph],” Mr BamBrogan shouts over the engine.

“We will use the pillars to even out the bumps in the terrain so people don’t feel weird.”

The buggy bounces over a rock and whisks past the 20 massive tubes already on site, and I find what concerns me is not the technical challenge.

I can absolutely believe the skills Hyperloop Technologies has brought in from the likes of SpaceX could crack the science, overcome the air resistance, and withstand the acceleration – it will be gentle.

What my mind, lacking as it does the ambition, faith and blue-sky thinking of some of Hyperloop’s backers and directors, cannot envision, is that within the next decade or so we could see the beginnings of something so radical that it would transform the landscape.

“This is a big deal,” I call back, “an entirely new form of transport. Do you think it will ever come off?”

Mr BamBrogan replies: “It will absolutely come off.

“This is the first generation that has not seen a new form of transport.

“People over the years have seen advancements, and it has changed their lives.”

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