back to article I'll build a Hyperloop railgun tube-way in Texas, Elon Musk vows

Some said SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk was mad when he wanted to build Hyperloop – a high-tech transport system described as "a cross between a Concorde and a rail gun." On Thursday, he vowed to construct it anyway. Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in …

  1. ACcc

    Never mind fast commuting... a Wipeout track.

    That is all.

  2. sisk

    Let's be fair here

    People said Musk was mad when he started Tesla also. Few would argue that SpaceX was an incredibly high-risk investment when he started it also, but it seems to have paid off.

    As I understand it, from what I've read about Musk elsewhere, he is more interested in pushing the limits with these sorts of things than in actually making money. The fact that he IS making money on them, I think, is a bit of a surprise. If that is true (which, grain of salt, it may not be since that's just my impression from a few articles I've read) then the whole Hyperloop thing doesn't seem quite so mad. Even if it's not true he's already made a mint from two "mad" ideas so why not go for a third?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's be fair here

      The two are not comparable. Automobiles were known technology, as was using batteries to operate cars (some of the earliest cars built in the 1890s were electric) The skepticism was not "that technology will never work" but "it is too hard/expensive to start an automaker from scratch".

      That's miles apart from the skepticism over hyperloop, which is not skepticism of Musk's business acumen (which he proved by making Tesla work) but skepticism towards making the basic technology and engineering of hyperloop work.

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge

        Re: Let's be fair here

        Hyperloop is also known technology: the idea of running a train through a low-pressure tube has been around since the early 1800s, and Vallance's prototype in 1824 actually worked. Hyperloop simply adds some modern tweaks, all of which are also known tech.

      2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        Re: Let's be fair here

        The fact is, linear induction motors are rather old technology, so we do know how to make them work. See maglev for an example in use today.

        Evacuated tubes would be an issue though, seals degrade and would erode performance, but again, not an overwhelming technological issue.

        Now, for solar powered everything, I'm a lot dubious on that one, solar powered car, possibly, but the magnetic motor, I'm inclined to doubt that one.

        1. S4qFBxkFFg

          Re: Let's be fair here

          "seals degrade and would erode performance"

          If they're tubes, the sections could perhaps be friction welded together as they're laid down (which would be quite impressive to watch/hear).

          1. Brent Beach

            Re: Let's be fair here

            The tube needs to expand and contract lengthwise as the temperature changes, so there have to be seals, not welds.

            1. Richard Ball

              Re: Let's be fair here

              If a welded steel railway track can survive being bolted straight to the ground, so can a pipe. Sounds a lot like a conventional pipeline construction most of the way.

              1. Kimo

                Re: Let's be fair here

                At least in US railroads (the old-school, slow kind) tracks are connected to ties which sit on a gravel surface.The design accounts for bot contraction and expansion of the tracks and ground movement (frost heave, water causing softening/swelling, etc). So far as I know, maglev and monorails also account fore movement of the track and ground. They need some flex.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Let's be fair here

                But if you look at railway track each section has a small amount of space for thermal expansion at each end. A seal would been needed for a vacuum tube. I really don't think sealing would be that big of an issue though. I read up on a similar design using a vacuum tube and they reckoned the pumps would be able to deal with a completely missing seal something like every 10km.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: Now, for solar powered everything

          I'm not big on any of the green tech, even his cars. I think it's likely a waste of time and resources. But at least it is his cash, not government cash, so I can live with it on the cars.

          That being said, having solar panels on the tubes strikes me as an interesting idea. Even if it can't carry the whole load, it has the potential to significantly reduce draw from the grid. So it's worth investigating. It's not like you're going to use the outside of the tube for anything else. Maybe it pays, maybe it doesn't. If it doesn't but the tube proper works, the solar can be discarded for the second tube built.

          1. SQL God

            Re: Now, for solar powered everything

            Solar panel roofed tubes are PERFECT!

            The sides of the tubes can still be used for advertising... And isn't that where all the money's made?

            1. james 68

              Re: Now, for solar powered everything

              Indeed, and the solar panels can charge batteries used to light the adverts at night.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's be fair here

          > Evacuated tubes would be an issue though, seals degrade and would erode...

          And on ordinary trains things like the tracks and the wheels wear out and have to be replaced.


      3. DaLo

        Re: Let's be fair here

        Take a maglev train combine it with the cash tubes that you may see next to cash registers in some stores and you have some of the basic and proven principles for this venture.

        I would expect by now, if they are considering the nausea of passengers while going around a corner they have decided that it is feasible from a technology perspective.

        From a legislative, cost, time, rights perspective it may be a completely different matter. However if Musk reckons he can make something affordably, he does have some experience in that matter. As long as he and everyone else hasn't convinced themselves that all he touches turns to Gold.

        In the end I would much prefer to see a billionaire spend his money on majorly outlandish projects that have a chance of success than either the Government wasting it, the billionaire squirreling it away and spending it on artwork, properties and small islands or the plans being shelved indefinitely because no-one had the balls to give it a go.

    2. Christian Berger

      He's at least trying

      He's at least trying to bring out products which are not like the ones everyone knows. He's taking risks. This is what the word "enterprise" originally meant. Enterprises haven't always been the risk-minimized entities they are now.

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge

        Re: He's at least trying

        Enterprise: to boldly go...

      2. Brent Beach
        Thumb Up

        Re: He's at least trying

        Absolutely. The transition to a low energy society will mean that most of our expectations will have to change. In 30 years the low energy solutions for almost everything we do will make today's high energy lifestyle seem profligate. Our grandchildren will be laughing at us, not at Musk.

        1. sisk

          Re: He's at least trying

          In 30 years the low energy solutions for almost everything we do will make today's high energy lifestyle seem profligate.

          That's one possibility. The other is that fusion really is 20 years away* and that we'll have essentially limitless clean energy 30 years from now. In that case we may actually end up going the other direction and today's lifestyle will seem low energy.

          *Yes, yes, yes, I know. Fusions been 20 years away for 30 years now. But hey, eventually they'll be right about it being only 20 years off.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Fusion - limitless clean energy

            Did anyone yet work out what to do with all those high-energy neutrons coming out of the thing? After the plant has been running for 10 years, how radioactive is it going to be?

            1. Martin Budden Silver badge

              Re: Fusion - limitless clean energy

              Did anyone yet work out what to do with all those high-energy neutrons coming out of the thing? After the plant has been running for 10 years, how radioactive is it going to be?

              Fusion doesn't have to produce neutrons: there is aneutronic fusion, and one of the most promising reactions is 1p + 11B → 3 4He + 8.7 MeV (or to put it more simply hydrogen + boron → helium + energy). Look up a thing called "focus fusion" to see it in action.

          2. annodomini2

            Re: He's at least trying

            "*Yes, yes, yes, I know. Fusions been 20 years away for 30 years now. But hey, eventually they'll be right about it being only 20 years off."

            50 Years.

            The first fusion reactors are 1940's but research took off in the 60's.

    3. ckm5

      Elon Musk DID NOT 'start' Tesla

      It was started by Marc Tarpenning & Martin Eberhard - Elon Musk was their lead A-round investor and they decided to make him CEO as he was good at both tech & business.

      This is according to Marc Tarpenning who I know quite well.

  3. Hit Snooze

    Pure Genius

    The man is a true genius. Starting a project that will cause the most talented engineers, new and old, to volunteer their time and talents on his project (who doesn't want to build and race a pod racer!). Once the right pods are designed and the tubes are tweaked --> PROFIT all around.

    I'm crossing my fingers that his next project will be either flying cars or teleporters

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pure Genius

      The man is bat-shit insane - in the best possible way! Full speed ahead etc :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pure Genius

      "I'm crossing my fingers that his next project will be either flying cars...."

      If Hyperloop can be made to work, then there won't be much of a market for flying cars, nor for overland passenger aircraft. That could do wonders for reducing emissions (for those that care), and for reducing fossil fuel demand, which has very tangible impacts on energy prices and resource use. I would imagine aircraft makers will soon be busy lobbying against this with all the resources they can muster.

      Sadly, here in Britain the government is busy apeing the state of California, with an unfeasibly expensive, unproductive and largely unnecessary high speed rail line which will cost many tens of billions, yet is essentially being designed on the basis of giving the British taxpayer by 2030 a short length of line built to standards that were high tech in 1980. If HS2 were either maglev or Hyperloop I think it would have far more to commend it, but I think that Musk demonstrates the point: Governments cannot and will not innovate, always preferring the obsolete, the expensive, and the vested interest every time.

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: Pure Genius

        Hah HS2. I thought you meant CrossRail. Now that's a short length of line :)

      2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Pure Genius

        The difference between HS2 and the california thing is that HS2 has an extra political dimension to it. Viewed purely in terms of Great Britain it's entirely pointless, replicating lines that already exist and that travel at almost the same speed, but it was never meant to be merely a line between London and Edinburgh. It's part of the European high-speed rail network. Viewed from that perspective it makes sense - at least politically, if not economically.

        1. Pen-y-gors

          Re: Pure Genius @Graham dawson

          But HS2 (as planned) doesn't even go to Edinburgh! If it was a true High Speed network linking all of GB (Bristol, Cardiff, Brum, Manchester, Leeds etc and on to Glasgow and Edinbugh) then there might be a point to the project. Cost would be insane though. As would the price of tickets. (But why is HS2 so much more expensive than building the original railways in the 19th century, which connected up just about every village and hamlet?)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pure Genius @Graham dawson

            "But why is HS2 so much more expensive than building the original railways in the 19th century, which connected up just about every village and hamlet?"

            I suspect in inflation adjusted terms you'd find the costs were not dissimilar for the well engineered mainlines. The main difference is that the original Victorian routes were built speculatively by private capital, and when many proved unprofitable (railway companies being over-invested during the "Railway Mania" of the times) they went bust. In some cases the routes couldn't cover operating costs so they closed, but many others could operate after the original investors had been wiped out, and the new owner took over with much lower capital on their balance sheet.

            This still happens. Both the Channel Tunnel, and HS1 (the high speed line from London to the tunnel) never covered their build costs, and the shareholders and creditors had to take a bath (in the case of HS1 the British taxpayer nobly stepped forward to shoulder some of the losses). And so it will be with HS2. Late, over-budget, uneconomic, with somebody destined to take a savage haircut on the cash "invested".

            1. SQL God

              Re: Pure Genius @Graham dawson

              Luckily no politicians were able to buy the real estate under the English channel. Otherwise they'd still be dickering over right-of-way with the politicians trying to become billionaires off their thousand dollar (650 pound) investments.

          2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: Pure Genius @Graham dawson

            "But why is HS2 so much more expensive than building the original railways in the 19th century, which connected up just about every village and hamlet?"

            Those railways were very expensive for the people who invested in them...

            I think if you include land acquisition costs into Musk's plan, the price advantage will shrink somewhat, but Musk's offer has a higher risk of overrun, or not working at all. Doing a proof of concept will help him get acceptance from people who are being asked to pay for it. Right now, you'd need to be insane to pour billions of taxpayers' money into an idea hasn't even been demonstrated as viable.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: california thing is that HS2 has an extra political dimension to it.

          Nope. The Cali thing is purely political too.

          Which is part of what appeals to me about Musk's idea. Even though politically he's a loony on the left, the project isn't about promoting his politics, it's about putting something out there that either works or doesn't. I respect that.

        3. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Pure Genius

          But the lines that already exist are running at full capacity, and the trains are seriously overcrowded. That's why we need a new line, and if you are going to build a new line, you may as well make it a high speed line.

    3. DropBear

      Re: Pure Genius

      Hmmm, we need to do some language-innovating here. We clearly have the term "mad scientist" for people who do this sort of thing with their own two hands, but what do you call them if they're the ones hiring the boffins? I mean "mad entrepreneur" doesn't quite have the same vibe...

      1. oddie

        Re: Pure Genius

        I believe the established term is super-villain :)

        if you are looking for something on a more positive slant then you could consider Doctor Manhattan/Ozymandias, Tony Stark...

        I hope his hyperloop experiments succeed :)

      2. Quinch

        Re: Pure Genius

        A businessmad?

      3. noominy.noom

        Re: Pure Genius


        Re: Pure Genius

        I think Musk qualifies as a proper boffin. Doesn't dress like one or necessarily talk like one but he has both the degrees and the practice. He does do a lot of the design work himself.

  4. HOW many?

    California, well known for its tectonic stability

    Not going to dis the basic concept. Seems wacky? Maybe, but a lot of our transport systems were deemed unfeasable, before they became everyday mundane.

    Is California, or anywhere the ground doesn't stay still a great place to take it to once it works in Texas? Umm.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: California, well known for its tectonic stability

      Valid point. I recall some years ago..late 60 or 70's maybe (?) where the idea of bullet trains were poo-poo-ed by some 'names' in engineering for that very reason.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: California, well known for its tectonic stability

      I don't think the problems the tube would face would differ greatly from what happens now with roads or other rail transit. You build the segments to make their failure during an earthquake a survivable event for passengers who might be affected, then deal with the aftermath as usual. Essentially, it's Cali, Cali has earthquakes. Deal with it. Oklahoma has tornadoes, Florida has hurricanes, and DC gets thunderstorms and ice. Everybody has some significant weather/geological issue that has to be dealt with.

      1. Picky

        Re: California, well known for its tectonic stability

        And in the UK we have trees (leaves) and the "wrong" sort of snow ..

      2. Charles 9

        Re: California, well known for its tectonic stability

        Besides, doesn't Japan's Shinkansen have to be built to negotiate earthquakes since it's in the Ring of Fire?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: California, well known for its tectonic stability

      Is California, or anywhere the ground doesn't stay still a great place to take it to once it works in Texas? Umm.

      That doesn't worry me at all. The very rings that decellerate/accelerate the capsule would correct the placement of the vehicle itself. You'd have to have an extreme slew rate for it to make a difference. Heck, Bob Heinlein featured that as part of the design in Starman Jones and in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Come to think of it, the solar panels featured as part of a design (Douglas-Martin Sunscreens) in The Roads Must Roll. Except for the Sunscreens, and some of the materials we're playing with today seem appropos, none of it is novel (yes, pun intended).

  5. CrazyLikeAFox

    I can't work out of I want the guys from Waynes World or Jay and Silent Bob to be making the obvious comment.....


    1. Swarthy

      Bill & Ted.

      ..Or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not the new movie version but either of the comic or cartoon versions).

  6. Andy Tunnah

    Really ?

    Nobody remembers the solar powered rail from The Simpsons?


    You're mad the lot of you, this will doom us all

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: Really ?

      Monorail, monorail, monorail!

      (Sorry, couldn't resist - if it's any consolation that jingle will be in my head all bloody day now too).

      Anyway on a similar topic - "But it now appears Silicon Valley's answer to Hank Scorpio has decided to go ahead."

      Somehow methinks it's more the other way about, "inspiration behind" (at least in part) rather than "answer to"...

  7. Roger 10

    The San Francisco peninsular needs this

    Caltrain is in dire need of replacement by something without level crossings, and the SF Bay area isn't a bad place for tech innovation. It would be a nice way to develop / showcase the technology, and could be extended to LA. "High Speed Rail" isn't.

    1. wayward4now

      Re: The San Francisco peninsular needs this

      Wouldn't a monorail be better for that region?? The pylons could take the stress of earthquakes if properly designed. Plus, they run above the traffic.

      1. Hairless Biker

        Re: The San Francisco peninsular needs this

        I'm not so sure. Any time anyone mentions monorails, I get all jittery that someone's going to think it's a good idea to give them AI.

        Blaine the Pain, anyone?

  8. Alan Brown Silver badge


    1: This won't work for commuter rail. The hops are too short. (SF peninsula HAD a great rail system, which got dismantled by the GM/Standardoil/Greyhound cartel in the 1930s, look up the streetcar conspiracy and settlements sometime)

    2: It's great for passenger travel, BUT it would be even better for long-haul trans/intercontinental high speed freight. Being able to use external electrical sources means that it could end up more efficient than the 19000-container size ships starting to ply the oceans. (Roll on LFTRs)

    which leads to...

    3: It lacks ambition and needs to be scaled up. In order to be viable for freight the pods need to be able to load a standard intermodal freight container (I emphasise NOT airfreight size containers - that would lead to double handling and inefficiencies.)

    There's no need for rail to continue to be "compatible" with 17th century stagecoaches, but it remains that way because that's the gauge everything is already built in.

    Prior art:

    look up

    Gravity railway, atmospheric railway, hovertrain, tracked hovercraft and various vactrain proposals

    It's worth noting that Musk's proposals aren't new. Something similar was originally floated in 1972 and written off as too expensive. Times change and it's entirely possible that technology has caught up with dreams.

    1. DocJames

      Re: Meh...

      There's no need for rail to continue to be "compatible" with 17th century stagecoaches

      I think you mean "the width of 2 Roman horses' arses" - the design gauge for Roman roads initially; copied for railways and now an unfortunate legacy as I don't fancy paying to rebore every tunnel/rebuild every bridge for the rail network...

      IIRC the most amusing example was the shuttle solid booster rockets had to be scaled down from the planned design as they were going to have to fit through a tunnel somewhere between their (pork) building state and KSC.

  9. RISC OS


    ...if your dad's a billionaire or multi-millionaire you can go pod racing in the future... for everyone else you can work as waiter to bring drinks to billionaire or multi-millionaire kids who pod race.

  10. fpx
    Thumb Up

    Way to go!

    Like I said in my previous comment:

    "It's possible that these ideas may reduce the cost to a price point where it becomes economically realistic. I can't judge that. Building a test track will go a long way to prove the concept and cost estimates."

    Musk has a few good ideas to improve on ancient vac-train concepts. But they are all unproven. My guess is that his cost estimates are off by some factor >>1 once you factor in reality, safety, comfort, and building it all from scratch.

    High-speed rail has a 100 year advantage in terms of engineering and "right-sizing." But once it's built, a Hyperloop is way cooler than boring tracks!

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    I'm picturing the new LHC, Large Hyperloop Collider.

    Accelerating mass to near supersonic speeds is best done in the higher parts of the atmosphere where it is well out of reach of humans there are fewer things to bump into.

  12. Mystic Megabyte


    The passengers will be in an air-tight box. You have to design a CO2 scrubber and a reserve air supply for when the pod breaks down and is stuck in the tube for a protracted period.

    I would rather fly Ryan Air than travel in this contraption!

    1. MD Rackham

      Re: Problemo?

      If a pod breaks down, then all the pods in the tube need to also stop to avoid a pile-up. In that case you can re-pressurize the tube safely and everyone can breath outside air.

      I actually came here to dispute the "desert no one cares about" line. Ahem. There are a lot of us who have been working quite hard to preserve the Mojave desert from off-road vehicle abuse and ill-considered private water schemes, to name just two threats. If you get off I-15 and actually take a look around, the Mojave desert is a wonderful place.

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Problemo?

        If you let air into an evacuated tube then it will blow the pods into each other at very high speed. Why not just use air as the thing that drives the pods down the tube - and prevents them bashing into each other? A simple reinforced concrete* tube 5m in diameter could take a mini bus in a pod and a slight pressure behind it would accelerate it to near supersonic speeds very easily** and not use that much power. So long as the COG is below the center of the pod it will take bends comfortably for the passengers.

        *plexiglass for a scary view:

        ** it would take less than a 1/10th atmosphere overpressure behind a 12 tonne pod with give 1G acceleration! 400mph would do me for getting from one end of the UK to another if sitting in my own car - like air travel more time will be spent in 'boarding' than travelling so doubling the speed would be pointless.

        1. Chris 239

          Re: Problemo?

          I don't think that will work: how do you get the air in front of the pod out of the way without a lot of pressure build up? Vents which close as the pod passes? Expensive, noisy and a high cost of maintenance. Vacuum in front of the each and every pod? Would mean using huge energy pumping out the tube for each pod (or string of pods) and would be so much less efficient.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: Problemo?

            For normal operations the pods can have a breathing system with a ram air intake in the front and an "outfart" in the back. The tunnels will operate in reduced pressure, not deep vacuum, so there will still be plenty of air to compress for breathing (it is the same principle as in aircraft cabin pressurisation systems).

            For breakdowns - just unseal the tunnel. The pods can be fitted with a bypass airduct for pressure equalisation between the tunnel in front and behind them.

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!

    Although with a thing shaped like that, you probably need to be the Kwisatz Haderach to ride it!

  14. Andy Miller


    "cornering could make passengers nauseous due to sideways G forces", could they bank the curves, so the pod tilts? Then the acceleration is downwards, where humans expect it. BR nearly made it work....

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Banking

      According to the team behind it, it did work but management panicked.

      The tilting Voyagers use the APT system

      The Fiat Pendadildos originally used screw jacks but now use APT technology.

      Basically the APT technology was sucessfull.

      And I got the details from the source

  15. jetgraphics

    Hypersonic Vactrain trumps Hyperloop.

    A vactrain (or vacuum tube train) is a proposed, as-yet-unbuilt design for future high-speed railroad transportation. It is a maglev line run through evacuated (air-less) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. The lack of air resistance could permit vactrains to use little power and to move at extremely high speeds, up to 4000–5000 mph (6400–8000 km/h, 2 km/s), or 5–6 times the speed of sound (Mach 1) at standard conditions.

    . . .

    1. fpx

      Re: "Hypersonic Vactrain trumps Hyperloop."


      You may be right as far as wishful thinking goes. It's completely feasible to accellerate to ludicrous speeds in a fully evacuated tube.

      The problem that Musk intends to solve is the economics, not the technology. We know how to build either. We know that vac-trains can not be built and operated economically. The jury's still out on Hyperloop economics.

  16. David Hamilton

    Not a new idea but enough to get an argument going

    Way back when Digital Equipment Company existed, I was lucky enough to be teamed up with a fantastic crazy engineer called Tom Stockebrand, He designed the Dec Tape drive for the PDP-8 !

    With a $2000 grant from MIT we built a 1km vacuum tube in the desert in New Mexico and sent an array of objects down the tube at high speed and managed to reach twice the speed of sound.

    The idea was to prove that high speed travel by rail could compete with air travel if the speed was fast enough and the train was long enough as trains have a difficulty with bandwidth in competing with air travel.

    The working model was demonstrated at the reform club in London in mid 1985.

    Our sponsor Professor Frank Davidson of MIT was commissioned to advise UK and French governments to invest in Macro Engineer or Big is Beautiful engineering.

    In those days we debated sending trains from New York to LA in 21 minutes. We would accelerate at 4G for 12.5 minutes half way across the USA (underground in a vacuum tube suspended by magnetic levitation ) - the concept got to designing 4G chairs to allow aged persons to sit in a seat and withstand 4G for such a time!)

    Of course the channel tunnel ended up going a lot slower.

    Nevertheless why not build a tube connecting the two cities - the distance is almost 350 miles and to do it 30 minutes would require an average speed of 700mph. Now wheres that slide rule?

  17. Scott Broukell

    It needs to be asked . . .

    Upon arrival at the terminus, will the gloopy mass of body parts, fluids and mashed internal organs that constitute the remains of the luckless passengers, be poured directly into vats destined for the Soylent Green factories?

    1. Tom 7

      Re: It needs to be asked . . .

      Are you suggesting the passengers will be subjected to overloud 1D music based advertising throughout their journey? I'd homogenise myself to get away from that.

    2. Rustident Spaceniak

      Re: It needs to be asked . . .

      Err - just why would there be a gloopy mass?

  18. MJI Silver badge

    What Brunel do if he was around now?

    This needs to be asked.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: What Brunel do if he was around now?

      He would be wearing an absolutely brilliant hat.

      But would be too busy suing Danny Boyle and the 2012 Olympic Games organisers for the image rights for their opening ceremony to get any serious engineering done...

  19. Rustident Spaceniak
    Thumb Up

    You gotta give the man credit -

    he certainly has a knack for trying out things, and a surprising tendency towards reasonable engineering in his wacky schemes. Obviously there are some issues with the necessary reliability of all the technologies in this thing, but you could imagine way more stupid approaches than getting a hundred volunteers to sort out these issues, and then building a prototype. Who knows, at the end of the day it might actually work.

    Certainly beats spending money on tropical islands for the entertainment value. Oh wait...

  20. DropBear

    What Brunel do if he was around now?

    Probably express his satisfaction that his early idea based on this concept is actually in service now then promptly move on to bigger and better things - he didn't seem to do "me too" stuff...

  21. Fortycoats

    Swamp Castle

    They said I were mad to build a castle in a swamp, but I built it anyway.

    It sank into the swamp.

    So I built a second one.

    That sank into the swamp.

    So I built a third one.

    That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.

    But the fourth one... STAYED UP!

    Sorry, but that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the first thing that I thought of when reading the first bit of the article.

    Still, good luck with the project. Some of Musk's ideas have proved themselves already, so I defnitely won't write him off.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: Swamp Castle

      You just have to keep piling up the attempts... :-)

  22. DogDoc

    Primary Booster instead of Chemical Rockets?

    This technology should be considered for use during the initial boost phase for payloads heading to orbit. The tube would be relatively shorter, aimed up and supported by a mountain side, self contained nuclear powered, easier to protect and it would be able to launch larger payloads at reduced cost. Once limited resources in orbit are no longer a major problem, we can build anything.

  23. Dr Fidget

    It's the track stupid.

    The problem with this idea is the same problem monorails have - the track, specifically the points.

    It's simple building a special, fancy track to run point-to-point but a real rail network needs to switch traffic from track to track. In fact in a point-to-point system being able to switch traffic between tracks is esssential unless you want to close the entire network when a bit of track maintenance is needed.

    There have been lots of designs for amazing vehicles running on tracks but the stumbling point so far has always been building the track when I see a solution for this I'll start taking it seriously, otherwise it's just another fantasy.

    1. toughluck

      Re: It's the track stupid.

      This transportation system is point-to-point, and specifically between two population centers. They won't build loops, but two tubes. The train will be switched from one to the other at each end.

      Indeed, it's costly. But Musk is betting the cost will be below potential revenue, and why not? If it works, and if it turns out it's able to turn in a profit, it can be extended (to multiple tubes, and to more connections).

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It's the track stupid.

      "a real rail network needs to switch traffic from track to track"

      That's all doable in tube systems.

      The real issue is that "trains" can be routed over existing low speed tracks to things called "railway stations", which tend to be conveniently sited in the middle of urban centres.

      Any alternative systems will need completely new infrastructure or require that people transfer from train to tube and back to get to the endpoints of their trip. We put up with that (and baggage restrictions) on aircraft because we're generally going long distances, but in order to take over from aircraft, the new system needs to be _better_

  24. Gary Bickford

    Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

    Then expand it until it reaches both cities. Or near DFW, between Dallas and Fort Worth. Both of those routes are good candidates for a route. The slog by car between Dallas and Houston is a huge PITA for many folks, at 240 miles it's shorter than the SF-LA route, Texas is a better entrepreneurial environment, and the only train route takes 22 hours as it goes through San Antonio.

    Dallas-Fort Worth (would probably actually be Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth) is only about 40 miles, so that's a pretty reasonable commercial beta. That's a developed (metroplex) environment, so cost per mile would be higher unless the State provides some support regarding the right of way.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

      That's roughly the same distance as between London and Paris, which takes 2h 15m by Eurostar. Would the benefits of an unproven technology in terms of reduced journey times outweigh the additional costs and uncertainties, when compared to a technology that is well established and widely used throughout Europe, Japan and a few other countries?

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

        The gamble is that it will cost less than the existing technology whose price tags make many voters blanch. And just to prove himself, this test isn't supposed to be government supported, so it's being done at little to no taxpayer cost.

        All I can say at this point is, "Good luck. I suspect you'll need it."

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

          He is basically comparing the track-laying cost of his project with the entire cost of a TGV or Shinkansen type line. The track-laying cost is I suspect, a fairly small proportion of the total cost.

      2. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

        There is a privately funded effort to build high speed rail between Houston and Dallas (Japanese investment - unclear if Japanese trains but it'd stand to reason they'd be Japanese too.)

        If a system dumps you on the outskirts you lose advantage relative to just driving the bloody distance. So it has to drop you inyo each city's transportation network. Houston is particular is 40 miles in diameter. The two proposed stations in Houston are downtown (geo center of Houston) and at a northwest shopping district.

        This may be a more realistic way to go.

  25. Haro

    Build it over the train

    And then electrify the high-speed train. Great stuff! But the other guy is right, you really need to figure out switches, sidings, mid-stations, and emergency exits. I'm thinking about that right now... :)

  26. herman


    Finally the Intertubes of Senator Hatch may become a reality.

  27. CarbonLifeForm

    Amdah's Law is useful in transit too

    The issue isn't the technology. When you consider transit, you must apply Amdahl's law in the same way as you apply it to contemplating speeding up various devices in an IT setting. It does you no good to have a 20 GHz CPU supercooled in liquid helium if it has to sit idle most of the time waiting for the RAM to catch up. Likewise, the hyperloop may get my body from e.g. Austin to Houston (260. km) in record time.

    But if I have to drive, take a bus, or a rail to my Austin hyperloop station, and then at Houston I have to do likewise, I've gained less than you think - particularly if it takes me a half hour on each end to get to the hyperloop station. An half an hour is conservative, unless I happen to live near the hyperloop station and my destination so happens to be close to it too.

    Now, you can start pepering the countryside with stations - and the price climbs. And the whole thing becomes less attractive than at first blush.

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