With Hyperloop, India eyes an unrealistic future | Quartz


Ananya Bhattacharya at Quartz India writes: “With Hyperloop, India eyes an unrealistic future.” I remain puzzled by the popularity of Hyperloop. I am quoted.

“I don’t think it’s (Hyperloop) practical any time soon,” David Levinson, a professor of civil engineering at the […] University of Minnesota, said. “Tunneling remains expensive. We have no idea how ordinary humans will respond to be being in windowless containers with that level of acceleration and deceleration. Or what happens if there is a malfunction or an attack on the tubes. It might be more appropriate for freight, but again, it is yet to be tested.”

More than 54% of India’s land is vulnerable to earthquakes currently, and swathes of India, including in states such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttarakhand are among the “very severe intensity” or “severe intensity” zones.

“2021 is probably a bit short for India but realistic for places like Saudi Arabia or places with wide open places,” Hugh Hunt, a senior lecturer in mechanics in the department of engineering at Cambridge University, and a Fellow of Trinity College, said. Unlike India, the proportion of uninhabited or uncultivable land in the Arabian Gulf countries is often much higher.

Meanwhile, there could be another concern. For decades, the process of land acquisition has stumbled in India, with a large number of projects stuck due to this. India’s bullet train plan is an example. Since taking power, the Modi government has tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the laws to ease this process.

“Focusing on fantasy technologies instead of real technologies is a distraction if you want to solve actual problems,” Levinson said.

Real network technologies include the auto/truck/highway system (which will be more productive with automation), rail (in close, high density corridors), including High Speed Rail in places, airlines and airports (for longer distance markets), and seaports (primarily for international shipping). I can’t say what should be used where since I have never been to India, but I think India should be smart enough to figure this out.

By all means if some private group is wealthy enough to  build and test Hyperloop somewhere they should do so, and IF it works technically, figure out whether it can be made to work financially. But until that actually happens, talking about and building Hyperloop networks is a chimera.