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British Tunnelling Society to assess UK hyperloop viability

Hyperloop One XP 1 vehicle being prepared for testing in Nevada. 3to2

The British Tunnelling Society (BTS) is to examine the practical challenges of building a hyperloop system in the UK.

BTS’ hyperloop study will examine the cost and practicality of building tunnels for a hyperloop network.

The hyperloop concept is the brainchild of American entrepeneur Elon Musk. It involves a series of tubes which propel pods at speeds up to 1,200 km/h. 

Musk considers the idea is only viable if the cost of tunnelling can be reduced by a factor of 10 or more.

He believes the cost of tunnelling could be significantly reduced by halving tunnel diameters, doubling the power of tunnel boring machines and using a continuous excavation and lining process, by benefitting from investment in tunnelling research and development, and by exploiting economies of scale.

The BTS Hyperloop study will look at the technical implications of tunnelling for hyperloop systems as well as looking at the cost drivers of tunnelling and the feasibility of Musk’s proposals for cost reduction.

The project is being partly funded by the ICE Enabling Fund, with the research work and reporting being carried out by consultant London Bridge Associates.

BTS project director Bill Grose said: “These are challenging questions to answer, but ones that we feel require considered thought by subject matter experts. We will consult widely within and outside the tunnelling community – we already know that there is considerable enthusiasm to participate.”

The final report for the project is expected to be published in the autumn.

News of the study follows calls for a UK hyperloop centre of excellence. Meanwhile, the world’s first commercial hyperloop is set to be built this year in Abu Dhabi.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chelsea miner

    1 cost of tunnelling could be significantly reduced by halving tunnel diameters - ok so you can put one car thro the tunnel certainly not mass transit
    2 doubling the power of tunnel boring machines - for what?, the limiting factor is cutterhead revs, and muck removal - increase rev speed and you'd bake the head in the ground like a gypsy's hedgehog supper
    3 using a continuous excavation and lining process - we already do this - Channel Tunnel c. 1989

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