Re: Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
"If you want them to have a bit more of a sky thinking then maybe they could look at Maglev, but that is a LOT more expensive than a standard train"
Maglev levitation is relatively cheap. The Shanghai Maglev only needs about 15kW for the actual levitation part (it uses far more power for the airconditioning).
The massive power draw comes from punching a train-sized hole through the air at speed - and also comes with a LOT of complaints from the neighbours (the maglev system now runs at reduced speeds in the evening)
Hyperloop _is_ maglev - in a partially evacuated tube - Which reduces the power requirements dramatically (you use a lot less energy pulling a mild vacuum than fighting friction) along with the noise emissions.
Keeping cabins pressurised is a solved technology - we've been doing it on aircraft for decades and hyperloop vehicles can be made with considerably thicker skin. No, the pax don't get smeared if there's a leak. It's called airbraking and no, the vacuum tubes aren't needed below about 70km/h/40mph, so things can be routed at low speed without the "tubes" before moving to vacuum for high speed transit
The biggest problem with vac trains is economics. Transportation systems don't make money on passengers - passenger train systems need massive government subsidies everywhere. That means to make them work they need to be able to carry freight and to carry freight they MUST be able to be containerised which means making the system big enough to hold standard containers. As soon as the cargo needs repacking along the way, the economics of the trasport system are destroyed.
In a working system the routing system doesn't ovberly care if pods are passenger or freight. The only difference would be the origin and destination points