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Hyperloop network could replace Heathrow third runway, expert claims

Hyperloop One phase 2 testing

Hyperloop technology could be used to expand airport capacity in London, replacing the need for a third runway at Heathrow, Hyperloop One managing director for the Middle East and India Harj Dhaliwal has claimed. 

In an exclusive interview with New Civil Engineer, Dhaliwal claimed that hyperloop technology could be a “gamechanger” when it comes to enhancing airport connectivity. 

In London, Dhaliwal suggested that an extensive network connecting Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow airports with purpose-built “check in terminals” in central London would replace the need for a third runway at Heathrow.

“When we start looking at multiple airports that serve a region, the question I would [ask] then is ‘is that the right way to go about expanding capacity?’” Dhaliwal said.

“In the London context, there are three [major] airports: Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow. One could turn around and say: ‘Why do we not connect them?’”

Dhaliwal added: “Imagine having airports connecting to airports but imagine now that, because of the security and the ability for each pod to only go where it is programmed to go […] you can have remote check-in terminals within the cities.

“No longer do you have to build massive terminals. You can actually have remote terminals in city centres, and that pod would check you in and your baggage in and take you straight airside to your point of departure.

“All of a sudden I think the whole logic around airport planning could be affected and I think that is something that we could really look at as we go forward.”

A high speed link connecting Heathrow and Gatwick has previously been dismissed by government. Last year, New Civil Engineer revealed that the HS4Air proposal connecting Heathrow and Gatwick to HS2 had been thrown out by the Department for Transport after being submitted as a privately-funded scheme. 

At present, Heathrow airport expansion bosses are still proving resolute in pushing on with plans to build a third runway.

Five legal challenges to the expansion programme – from Heathrow Hub, environmentalists, London mayor Sadiq Khan and local councils – were simultaneously heard at the High Court at the end of March.

They were mounted after the House of Commons voted in favour of building the runway, approving transport secretary Chris Grayling’s National Policy Statement (NPS) by 415 votes to 119, in June last year.

Judges have yet to hand down their decision following the hearing. A ruling is expected by the end of May.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Philip Alexander

    It's about time someone called this crazy idea out for what it is. But no-one seems to be brave enough to say that the king has no clothes on.
    Tunnels conveying passenger vehicles (rail or road) have to conform to a host of safety requirements, mainly concerned with fire and life safety and there is no way at all that due to the method of propulsion (if it ever is shown to work - think Brunel's atmospheric railway.....) which seems to require a very tight fit between vehicle and tunnel wall, that these safety requirements could possibly be met. And who in their right mind will want to be put into a long tube with no means of escape, no emergency exits of any sort and propelled at supersonic speeds? I think I value my life too much. Remember it was dreamt up by someone who knows nothing about tunnelling, tunnelling costs or operational safety.
    May I re-iterate, this is a crazy idea dreamt up to elicit financial support from those who think they ought to jump into any Dan Dare technology just because it's techy and cool.
    Can we have some sober, considered evaluation of this concept by a tunnel safety panel and then the rest of us can get on with delivering travel modes using technologies which will actually work and be safe for people to use.

    The concept of joining up the three major London airports is surely sound and I have proposed this some time ago to avoid the ridiculous idea of building a third runway at Heathrow airport at a cost of £15Billion!!!. Put another one at Gatwick at a fraction of the cost of Heathrow R3 and you get far greater capacity from two 2-runway airports operated as a single hub than one of 1 runway and another of 3 runways. If Stansted is then included by building a fast link between LHR, LGW and STN, it provides huge flexibility.
    A far better use of funds than HS2!

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  • HS4Air is a better answer than Hyperloop for connecting LHR with LGW:

    - Proven technology
    - High Speed Rail has excellent safety record.
    - Fully integrates with existing rail network
    - Higher passenger capacity.
    - Ability to carry freight.

    With HS4Air, the UK has the chance to become a world leader for Rail-Air connectivity rather than lagging further behind.......

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  • Philip Alexander - there are lots of things we do not agree on but on this we absolutely do. I fully agree with your analysis of hyperloop.

    Hyperloop is in the realm of Science Fiction right now. It might be possible but not with today's technology and materials. I am sure most engineers share this view but unfortunately, real engineering expertise is not appreciated enough by the corporate (or political) elite for our voices to be heard.

    I also agree that the idea of connecting the airports and building a second runway at Gatwick is sound and makes much more strategic sense than a 3rd (expensive) runway at Heathrow. Unfortunately this choice is driven purely by politics - a sad state of affairs.

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