All around the world, authorities are exploring the potential of Hyperloop transport systems through feasibility studies, with the US state of Missouri among them. Billed as the first such study in the US, the results are now in and outline some of the potential benefits stemming from a proposed route along the existing I-70 highway.
The feasibility study was announced last October, along with the formation of a so-called Missouri Hyperloop Coalition that includes startup Virgin Hyperloop One, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Kansas City Tech Council. According to Virgin Hyperloop One, the final report has been independently authored by engineering company Black & Veatch.
"This is the first feasibility study in North America and in the West that has been verified by a third party," Virgin Hyperloop One's head of marketing, Ryan Kelly, tells New Altas. "In addition, it is the first time we've talked about ticket prices, which is huge since this is the number one question we get asked."
The study began in January this year, with the coalition examining the pros and cons of a proposed Hyperloop route connecting Kansas City on Missouri's western border and St Louis on the eastern frontier, a 250-mile (400-km) journey that currently takes just under four hours by car.
It took an "exhaustive" look at impacts of regulatory issues, route alignments and station locations that would arise from building a Hyperloop route along the I-70 corridor. Virgin Hyperloop One says construction would cost around 40 percent less than a high speed rail project, and that the reduction in highway accidents alone would save motorists US$91 million per year.
It also says people traveling along the route would increase by 80 percent, and that the price per ride could be less than the cost of gas used traveling by car. The company reckons it could shuttle passengers between the two cities in 30 minutes, and the huge reduction in travel time could save the economy $410 million.
It is unclear at this stage how the coalition arrived at these figures, and the vague nature of the ticket prices must give some indication as to the amount of speculation involved. But that is the nature of the Hyperloop as it currently stands.
The technology remains experimental, with Virgin Hyperloop One developing its system at a test facility near Las Vegas. Here it has deployed a full-scale test pod in near-vacuum tubes to hit speeds of around 387 km/h (240 mph), an impressive feat but a far cry from the imagined speeds of a fully realized Hyperloop system, which would run at around the speed of sound (745 mph or 1,200 km/h).
In any case, Virgin Hyperloop One, along with competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is pursuing its vision of building routes around the world, with new plans announced for India and the UAE this year alone. Where the first route will pop up is uncertain, but the company is now pushing ahead with what it sees as a high-potential option.
"Missouri Hyperloop Coalition will now work on the public private partnership aspect to get the funding right," says Kelly. "This route is great because we can use the I-70 corridor. It's also straight and flat!"
You can hear from some involved in the study in the video below.
Source: Virgin Hyperloop One
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