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Call to 'ditch outdated HS2 for Hyperloop'

Hyperloop European route UK NorthSouthConnector 3to2

The government should be investing in future thinking transports like Hyperloop as technology on High Speed 2 (HS2) will be out of date by the time it is built, a leading economist has said.

Speaking in The Times, Policy North president David Harrison has called on the government to ditch HS2 and start to invest in new technologies.

“The government must stop trying to deliver our future transport infrastructure with technology that will already be outdated by the time HS2 is operational,” said Harrison.

The pace of development on the experimental Hyperloop technology has been rapid. Within five years of the idea being mooted by magnate Elon Musk, companies such as Hyperloop One are already full scale testing the new technology involved in the ultrafast mode of transport.

With speeds of up to 970km/h, it has been claimed that it could be a step change in the way people travel long distances.

Nine routes across Europe, including three in the UK have already been proposed by Hyperloop One. The company said the 666km North - South connector route from Edinburgh to London would take around 50 minutes, and the 1060km long Scotland to Wales route starting in Glasgow and calling at Edinburgh, Newcastle, Nottingham, Cambridge London and Oxford before terminating in Cardiff has been put at just 89 minutes.

Harrison said the new infrastructure could make jobs in London accessible to people living hundreds of miles away. This, he said, would “challenge the north-south divide and create a more balanced spread of wealth across the country”.

“Workers would no longer need to move to London to access the best-paying opportunities — only to have the benefits of those positions wiped out by the soaring cost of living there,” he said. “Similarly, businesses could locate to the north of England where there is plenty of space.”

Hyperloop One has previously said it is aiming to have the first systems operational by 2021.

Readers' comments (3)

  • He's an economist. Enough said

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  • With due respect, how long would it actually take to deliver a Hyperloop route? An awful lot of hot air is being blown, so I have a few questions:

    (1) No evidence that it could actually be delivered. What are the alignment parameters? How much demolition needed, and what about the environmental impacts (eg the Chilterns)? In contrast, HS2 has actually been planned, designed and has statutory powers. You might not like it, but HS2 has been designed and tested through the planning system.
    (2) Why do we actually need 'hyperfast' transport? The concept is pretty laughable, given that most of our transport network struggles to even be fast. Is 'fast' not good enough in the UK? Or even simply 'reliable'? Hyperfast might be suitable for long distances but do we really need this for the 100 miles between Birmingham and Manchester? Is 12 minutes really that much better than 25 minutes? What is the economic rationale?
    (3) No mention about the connections to the hyperloop stations from the city regions - it's not just about city centres. What use is it if it takes 12 minutes from Manchester to Birmingham if it takes 60 minutes from Oldham to Manchester? Why are we not paying the same attention to the connections within our city regions? Or is this just about getting people between city centres? If so, is this really going to create a market for intercity travel?
    (4) Who will pay for this? The private sector? and why? How would they make money? Or is there an expectation that we (taxpayers) will pay? If the latter, what are the benefits to the UK? and does the case stack up better than other options, such as HS2?

    It's time to start looking at transport as a system, which meets the needs of our economy and the people using the system, and not just exciting big projects for us to build.

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  • I remember similar claims being made about high speed Maglev trains 40 years ago ... where are they?

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