IS THE HYPERLOOP
AN ALTERNATIVE TO
HS2, HS3 AND AIRPORT EXPANSION?
By John Miller
INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THSG
The attached is a personal paper by THSG member John Miller (a pseudonym for a local government officer), raising the question of whether UK investment in HS2 and Heathrow expansion should be redirected into developing a UK national hyperloop system, and whether this might also be a better way to provide HS3, the high speed link across the North.
It points out that there are risks either way – in one direction the risk of investing in technology that will be outdated by the time it is built, in the other the risk of relying on new unproven technology which might fail.
We publish this paper to initiate a debate on this important balance of risk. In doing so, THSG wishes to make the following comments.
THSG is not as enthused by high-speed transport as many other transport organisations. We are currently neutral to HS2 and opposed to airport expansion. In promoting a debate on whether to proceed with these two projects or with a hyperloop we would not wish to be thought to oppose the idea of doing none of these things and spending the money on local transport instead.
We do however believe that, to whatever extent high-speed transport is thought to be necessary, high speed rail is preferable to aviation. In this context we view the hyperloop, if it comes to fruition, as a faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly form of high speed rail.
It is in that context that THSG publishes this paper and initiates this debate.
Transport & Health Study Group
48 Middle Hillgate
STOCKPORT, SK1 3DL
|THSG is a network of health and transport professionals and academics and community groups. It promotes research into and policy debate about the relationship between transport and health and manages the Transport Special Interest Group of the Faculty of Public Health
IS THE HYPERLOOP AN ALTERNATIVE TO HS2 AND AIRPORT EXPANSION?
The hyperloop is a variant on a very old concept, first developed by a British physicist in the 19th century, of a train running in a depressurised tube. Such a train can potentially achieve very high speeds. Theoretically it can achieve speeds of thousands of miles per hour, but the technology to realise that potential is probably some way beyond us at the present. When first projected in the 19th century the technology then current was not capable of significantly improving on conventional trains so it offered no practical advantage. A few years ago Elon Musk pointed out that it could probably be brought to fruition with current technology as a system operating at about 750mph.
Although this was originally widely perceived as unrealistic, opinion is changing. A test track is operating in Nevada and has already achieved an acceleration of 0-60mph in 1 second. Interest is being expressed by France, Poland and China. China is even talking of a hyperloop from Beijing to New York. This poses the question of whether investing in high speed rail and aviation at the moment is like investing in a fleet of state of the art new stage coaches in 1830.
This is not an easy question. We could waste money by investing in a technology that is unproven and proves problematic. Or we could waste money by building something that is outdated as soon as it opens. Or we could waste time deferring the decision until we are sure.
Could the hyperloop provide such rapid transport between airports that it was possible to operate the four London airports, Manchester Airport and perhaps some other regional airports as a single hub airport? If you can transit from the arrivals lounge at Manchester Airport to the departures lounge at Gatwick Airport in 20 minutes why is that any different to changing between two terminals in the same airport?
Could the hyperloop replace HS2 and HS3? Bear in mind that the hyperloop is
- Much cheaper
- Much more energy efficient (powered by solar panels on the outside of the tube)
- Much easier to construct – it can be elevated on poles, built on the ground, buried, submerged, or built above motorways or railways or canals.
- Much less demanding of land and much less intrusive on neighbouring areas
- Fast enough to allow reasonable journey times via links to hubs.
Nonetheless the simple answer to the above questions, on the technology conceptualised by Elon Musk, is “No”.
The first problem is capacity. The hyperloop conceptualised by Elon Musk was of a tube carrying 120tph (trains per hour) of 28 seater vehicles. This is a capacity of 3,360pph (passengers per hour). HS2 will have a capacity of 21,000pph.
The second problem is compatibility with the classic railway. The hyperloop conceptualised by Elon Musk had no such compatibility. It operated on a maglev basis and was not intended to run onto classical rail tracks. In contrast HS2 is intended to convey trains which can run on beyond the end of the high speed line.
The third problem is flexibility of service patterns. Elon Musk envisaged a city centre to city centre link between pairs of cities. To link a range of cities this would require a plethora of tubes.
However let us imagine the following developments
- 100 seater vehicles, increasing the capacity of the system to 12,000pph so that a double tube would increase the capacity of the system to rather more than HS2. This is probably feasible – Elon Musk did envisage a double deck version with cars on the lower deck and it could just as easily have seats on that deck so a 100-seater vehicle only envisages increasing from two 28-seat decks to two 50-seat decks.
- Vehicles with deployable rail bogeys so that they can leave the hyperloop and run on in rail mode. This is also probably feasible – Elon Musk envisaged deployable wheels for manoeuvring and emergencies and these could just as easily be rail bogeys.
- Control systems which allow pods to have intermediate stops, or the system to branch. It then starts to become feasible to run pods from various destinations to a hub, or to run pods which serve intermediate stations on a rotating basis with potential to double back at the end of the line if travelling between two intermediate stations. Moreover a plethora of tubes linking different city centres could serve as intermediate stations a very large number of smaller settlements. This may be more problematical because it increases the leakage for the depressurisation.
Of course the hyperloop is already an experimental technology and these are suggesting further developments of that technology. We would be not just one step away from best reliable current technology but two steps. However if we reflect on how the technology of the railway developed between 1830 and 1855, it is not impossible to imagine such developments taking place within the timescale of major infrastructure projects. Imagine that in 1830 somebody had not just bought a set of state of the art stagecoaches but had ordered them for delivery in tranches between 1845 and 1855?
This paper is designed to explore whether, if the hyperloop technology were to succeed in its current trials and it were then to prove possible to develop it in the ways that I have suggested above, it might indeed be the case that a hyperloop could replace HS2 and airport expansion. The paper does this by examining detailed service patterns that could be applied if the technology envisaged by Elon Musk were developed in the three ways described above. I think the answer to the question then becomes “Yes”. Indeed I suggest that not only can it replace HS2, HS3 and airport expansion but it can offer other advantages. It can lay the basis for a future national system. By reinstituting wayside stops, loops and spurs we can begin to promote a more local reach for the high speed system, gaining local transport benefits from it.
If I am right in that question the debate then becomes whether to run the risk of relying on a developing new technology or to run the risk of building something which might be outdated as soon as it is open. Either is a risk.
This is the same decision that the directors of the Stockton & Darlington Railway faced when they were considering whether to use steam traction or open a horse tramway, and that the directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway faced when deciding whether to use cable haulage or to organise the Rainhill Trials. In so many ways history depended on which risk they chose to take. Luckily they got it right. Did they have a courage that we should emulate? Or was it a foolhardiness which just happened to turn out OK?
A proposal, around which we can debate that question, follows.
THE OUTLINE PROPOSAL
The proposal is based on the assumption that a hyperloop can be developed which has the performance capacity of the proposal by Elon Musk and which can be further developed so as to include intermediate stops and to consist of 100 seat rather than 28 seat vehicles, with deployable rail bogeys which make it possible to run off the hyperloop onto the classic railway.
The proposal is to develop a complete national system in six phases, with the opportunity after each phase to review in the light of the lessons learned.
It is essential to add the vital caveat that this is still an unproven technology. Prototypes have operated experimentally a few times but there has been no operational experience and prototypes are not yet built of sufficient completeness to provide operational experience. It will be important to bear in mind the serious possibility that it may not succeed.
It is proposed to fund the project initially by pausing HS2 and cancelling the Heathrow Airport expansion. On HS2 there should be no major steps taken but preparatory work should still be maintained so that it can be resumed if the hyperloop fails. The same organisation and project team should therefore deal with both projects.
Given the proposed funding the first three phases focus on delivering the benefits that those projects and HS3 would have delivered.
The paper focuses on service patterns as this will allow evaluation of the practical benefits of the proposal in comparison to the HS2 alternative.
Engineers might have expected more description of construction and of vehicles, but this information is readily available in Elon Musk’s original proposals and in the work being undertaken in developing prototypes. I have described in the introduction the three changes to those designs that would be necessary to accommodate this proposal and the detail of those changes can be debated by others.
Elon Musk assumed that his proposed hyperloop would be built above interstate highways and in this proposal I have assumed construction above motorways, above railways and above or along disused railway formation. However it should be noted that railways and motorways in the UK have more bridges over them than interstate highways in the US and railways have tunnels. There is nothing technically complex in accommodating these but there would be a need for design work to address them, there would be a need to bore some new tunnels and rebuild some bridges, and this would add to the cost. Complex and costly as this would be, it is a fraction of the complexity and cost of creating new high speed rail formations.
Where I am proposing wayside stops, I have assumed that where a pod makes a wayside stop and a following pod catches up with it there would need to be a five minute gap between the two. This is based on the performance characteristics described by Elon Musk. I have assumed that the need for this would be reduced by arranging pods in flights each of which stops at an earlier station than the one before it. For example on a London to Birmingham service a pod calling at Rugby would run after one calling at Coventry but before one calling at Northampton. There would however be a loss of capacity when one such flight of pods ends and the next such flight begins. With wayside stops served hourly there would be one such changeover each hour and the capacity would be reduced from 120tph to 110tph. If they were served every 20 minutes there would be three such changeovers and the capacity would reduce to 90tph. However if there was a completely closed loop then the need for a changeover would not arise so the capacity would remain 120tph
It is possible that even without a closed loop the loss of capacity could be less than this if there is a slight slowing of the service by the 30 seconds corresponding to the gap between pods, and there is careful planning of the scope for pods to overtake pods that are making wayside stops. The overtaking pod could accelerate to take up the path of the pod that has stopped. The path that is thus vacated would be available for a pod restarting after a stop. This is entirely feasible but might be a step too far for the initial developments.
The following are the proposed phases.
A hyperloop will be built from Manchester to Sheffield and back in a closed loop operating over the Woodhead Pass. This will test the feasibility of the technology including the feasibility of intermediate stops served on a rotating basis.
If phase 1 works the later phases will be initiated but also there will be further development of phase 1 to link other cities across the North – the hyperloop version of HS3
A hyperloop will be built, mainly above motorways, between London and Manchester, branching out at the Manchester end into links to each of the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester and with some services continuing in rail mode to other stations in the North of England and in Scotland.
This will provide city to city links between London and Manchester, will speed up rail journeys to the North of England and Scotland, and will provide a new express core to the Manchester local rail system.
It will test the concept of city centre to city centre hyperloop services although there is increasing confidence that these will work and this is not a great risk.
It will also test, in the branches at the Manchester end, the feasibility of branching, This latter test would take place in a context where, if it failed, it would not undermine the rest of the scheme nor would the infrastructure be totally useless – at worst these end branches would just be conventional maglevs.
If phase 2 provides adequate proof of concept the following will be built
– A hyperloop express core to the London rail system, modelled on that which has been trialled in Manchester in phase 2. This will be built mainly above railways.
– A hyperloop from Brighton to Cambridge via Gatwick Airport, Heathrow Airport, St Pancras, London City Airport and Stansted Airport.
– A hyperloop from London to Birmingham, above the WCML, serving intermediate stations on the WCML on a rotating basis. This will free capacity on the WCML for freight, one of the main purposes of HS2. It will also test the idea of a hyperloop serving local stations by wayside stops and doubling back in the more complex setting of a linear rather than circular route
– A hyperloop to Crewe and Liverpool, including services running northwards in rail mode on the WCML
– A hyperloop from St Pancras to Northallerton, via Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds, using the line of the old Great Central Railway to Sheffield, then above motorway, railway and disused rail formation to Northallerton (for North East destinations)
A hyperloop to the West Country to test its capacity to operate underwater with the tubes submerged and to test if it can meet the needs of rural areas through the benefits greater speed and greater frequency offer for wayside stops, loops and spurs. This scheme should progress as soon as the previous schemes have proved successful
Development of hyperloop lines from London to all major cities (including a sea bed tube between Portpatrick and Larne to take the line to Northern Ireland)
Hyperloop tubes radiating out from hubs at Edinburgh and Glasgow to stations all over Scotland. This would test the concept of the hyperloop operating via a hub using the high speed of the service to permit travel via the hub rather than directly.
Once the hyperloop to the West Country has proved the concept of the hyperloop serving rural areas plans should be developed for services to other rural areas.
Subject to the success of the Scottish pilot, hyperloop lines would be built (mainly above motorways, major roads, railways and disused rail formations but also on new alignments) to link most towns and villages to London, their regional centre, their county town and a national hub at Gravelly Hill, Birmingham. This would form the long distance element of a healthy transport system based on active travel for short journeys with demand-responsive services by highly autonomous vehicles for those who are too disabled, or encumbered by heavy luggage, to travel actively. The train/cycle combination would be the mode for longer journeys.
THE WOODHEAD PROTOTYPE
A closed loop would run from Manchester above the railway from Piccadilly to Hadfield then on the disused Woodhead rail formation to Penistone. This would be laid alongside the existing bridleway and buried in a grassy mound. At the Woodhead Pass it would be laid through the old bore of the Woodhead Tunnel. After Penistone it would run above existing railway via Barnsley and Sheffield Victoria to Stocksbridge, then alongside the road though Langsett, back through the Woodhead Tunnel and then above the A628, M67 and A57 back to Piccadilly.
In addition to stations at Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield Victoria where all pods would stop there would be stations at each of the 23 existing stations, 16 former stations and 1 projected station (Gamesley) on this route and at Midhopestones, Langsett, Tintwistle, Hollingworth, Mottram-in-Longdendale, North Hattersley, Hyde Central, Denton Central, Denton East (adjacent to existing Denton station, which would be renamed Denton East) and Debdale. Each pod would serve one station in addition to the two city centre stations and they would be served on a rotating basis with each pod serving the station before the one served by the pod preceding it. This would ensure that a pod which stops is not caught up with by the pod behind. As there is a closed loop, this can be done without loss of capacity.
There would also be 5 places where pods would leave the hyperloop, convert to rail mode and run to a destination off the route, being replaced in the hyperloop by a pod from that same destination. Denton East (the current Denton Station, connection to Reddish and Stockport), Guide Bridge (connection to Ashton, Stalybridge and Saddleworth), Dinting (connection for Glossop), Penistone (connection via Denby Dale to Huddersfield) and Meadowhall (connection for Rotherham) would be those five places. All of the stations and spurs could be served at least every half hour, with 10 of them served every 20 minutes. However if some of the smaller stations, such as Woodhead, Midhopestones, Langsett and Crowden, were served only hourly this would increase the number that could have a 20-minutely service.
Every station would have a direct link to Manchester and Sheffield. Sometimes this would involve running the long way round the loop but as the entire loop should take no more than 15 minutes this wouldn’t matter. However journeys between two of the smaller stations would usually involve changing at Manchester or Sheffield. Existing stopping services on the railways which the hyperloop runs above would be operated by tram/trains mainly intended for those making shorter journeys. There would be a high frequency monorail shuttle linking Sheffield Victoria and Sheffield Midland.
LATER EXPANSIONTO HS3
Once this prototype service has proved successful the later phases of the project could be built but also similar closed loops could be constructed linking other pairs of Northern cities with services to a large number of Northern towns as intermediate rotating stops.
The first such connections would be
- Manchester and Leeds/Bradford (out via Oldham, Ripponden, Halifax and Bradford back via Huddersfield),
- Leeds and Sheffield (out via Castleford, Pontefract and Rotherham , back via Barnsley and Wakefield),
- Manchester and Liverpool (out via Warrington back via St. Helens),
- Leeds/Bradford and Newcastle (out via Harrogate and Darlington, back via Sunderland, Teesside and York),
- Sheffield and Hull (out via Doncaster and Goole, back via Scunthorpe and Gainsborough),
- Manchester and Preston (out via Wigan, back via Bolton)
Later links could include Leeds/Bradford and Preston (out via Skipton back via Hebden Bridge), Liverpool and Preston (out via Ormskirk, back via Southport), Leeds/Bradford and Hull (out via York and Market Weighton, back via Selby and Goole), services from Newcastle to Liverpool, Preston and Manchester across the Yorkshire Dales and a service from Newcastle to Hull (out along the coast via Sunderland, Middlesborough, Whitby and Scarborough, back via Malton, Pickering, Stockton and Washington)
These loops would not only provide high speed links between the Northern cities but they would also link in a wide range of Northern towns, making HS3 not just an Inter-City link but also a core transport system for Northern towns.
THE MANCHESTER TUBE
This should be the first tube to be built after the initial prototype service and should serve to prove the concept.
It should be built above the M1, M6 and M56, although with a smoothed curve from the M6 to the M56 elevated on poles across countryside. It would run from St Pancras to the M1 above railways.
It should run from London St Pancras to Manchester Airport where it should split into branches
- Above the Styal line into Manchester Piccadilly
- Above MAELR then above the railway into Stockport then above the Reddish line to Ashton then above the disused railway formation to Oldham then above A627 to Rochdale then south above the railway to Middleton Jc and above the old spur into Middleton
- Above M60 to Worsley then divides into a tube to Bolton along the Little Hulton line and another tube along the Leigh Guided Busway with two branches – one to Wigan above the disused railway from Tyldesley to Wigan and the other running above the busway to Leigh and then proceeding on poles to Golborne, Haydock and Ashton in Makerfield. The Bolton tube would run on to Bury above the disused railway.
- A route which would link the above M60 tube just beyond Barton Bridge to a route along the Ship Canal. This would follow the south side of the Ship Canal from Partington until opposite Port Salford where it would cross the canal underwater to run along the north side of the canal to Salford Quays
- On poles via Halebarns to Hale from where services may proceed in rail mode
– Above A5103 then above the second city crossing than above the A56 to Bury the above the disused railway formation to Bolton
When this is the only tube it should run as follows
- 30 tph to make up a service every 2 minutes from St Pancras to Piccadilly
- 30 tph to make up a service every 20 minutes from St Pancras to each GM borough
- 60 tph of pods to be moved into rail mode at the end of the hyperloop and assembled into 6 nine car trains and 3 two car trains as follows
- One to Glasgow
- One to Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh
- One to Perth dividing into an 7 car train to Aberdeen and a 2 car train to Inverness
- One to Liverpool
- One to Warrington, Chester and North Wales
- One to Sheffield and Hull
o A two car train to each of Blackpool, Barrow, and Windermere.
To avoid filling of capacity these pods would not stop in Manchester but additional carriages from Manchester and pods from Manchester Airport would proceed to join them at their assembly point
The 3 tph from St Pancras would be supplemented by a further 9tph from the airport to each GM borough making up the following pattern of service from the airport
- 12tph nonstop to Stockport then descends to railway at Heaton Norris Jc and in rail mode proceeds to Denton then
- 2 tph to Guide Bridge, Stalybridge and Saddleworth
- 2 tph to Hyde Central and Marple
- 2 tph to Glossop and Hadfield
- 6 tph to Ashton then returning to the hyperloop tube to run non-stop to Oldham and then back into rail mode as a stopping service to Rochdale Station via the Metrolink line. From there 3 tph would run along the Metrolink to the Town Centre and the other 3 tph would run along the railway to Heywood
- 12 tph nonstop to Ashton then continues to Oldham serving intermediate stations on a rotating basis
- 4 tph continues to Oldham then turns south through Werneth Tunnel and joins Metrolink to continue to Failsworth
- 4tph continues to Oldham then turns south through Werneth Tunnel and takes new short spur on poles down Werneth Bank to new station Chadderton Central close to shopping centre and then on to Middleton Junction and Middleton
- 4 tph leaves the main line at Park Bridge and takes a new spur on poles to Alt, Holts and Lees
- 12 tph nonstop to Oldham then continuing in the tube to Rochdale with some intermediate stations including one at Royton. At Rochdale 3 tph proceeds in rail mode to Littleborough
- 12 tph nonstop to Rochdale then Middleton
- 12 tph for Bolton. Operates to Little Hulton, then Bolton Hospital then Bolton, 4tph continuing to Bury, the other 8 tph continuing in rail mode 2 tph to Kearsley, 2 tph to Westhoughton, 2 tph to Horwich, 2 tph to Bromley Cross
- 12 tph for Wigan. Operates to Worsley then
- 4 tph to Leigh, Golborne, Haydock and Ashton in Makerfield ,
- 4 tph to Tyldesley, Hindley South, Platt Bridge and Wigan North Western proceeding by rail to Standish and
- 4tph leaving the hyperloop at Walkden and proceeding by rail to Wigan Wallgate and beyond
- 12 tph for Salford as follows:-
- 4 tph to Monton Green then Worsley then leaves the hyperloop at Walkden and proceeds by rail to Salford Crescent
- 4 tph leaves the hyperloop at Peel Hall and proceeds by rail to Patricroft, Eccles,Seedley,Weaste and Salford Central
- 4 tph leaves the hyperloop after Barton Bridge then continues on poles along the Ship Canal to Salford Quays. Ferries would link to destinations on the south bank
- 12 tph for Trafford as follows
- 4tph to Hale then in rail mode to Trafford Bar, then through short tunnel to Irlam line then to Irlam
- 4tph as above as far as the Irlam line but instead of running to Irlam calls at Manchester United Football Ground then follows the old freight line through Trafford Park to the Trafford Centre
- 4tph via M60 to Trafford Centre then to Partington. Restoration of the ferries that used to cross the canal would link to the north bank
- 12 tph nonstop to Whitefield then continue to Bury with a further intermediate station at Redvales. 8tph would continue to Bolton. 4tph would run in rail mode along the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom (the railway being double tracked between Bury and Ramsbottom to permit this) and then on a new alignment on poles to Edenfield.
- 12 tph with stations at Wythenshawe (connect to Metrolink), Nell Lane (connect to Metrolink), Moss Side/Whalley Range, Deansgate/Castlefield, Manchester Victoria, Broughton Park terminating at Prestwich
These services would not only provide several stations in each GM Borough with a direct link to London but they would also provide links to the Airport and Airport City from all parts of the conurbation. By interchange at the airport there should be frequent fast services between the different boroughs of Greater Manchester avoiding the city centre and this would supplement the radial tram and train services. Indeed a variety of direct through routes could be developed by end to end linkages of services on different routes into the airport.
This first phase would provide proof of concept for fast inter city traffic, and for branching local links, and further experience of conversion to rail mode.(the Woodhead prototype having tested this only in the context of a dedicated spur) The Oldham – Ashton portion would test the idea of serving local stations on a rotating basis outside the context of a closed loop.
Once it has been shown to work the phase 3 tubes would be built.
This would free up the 60 tph that are used in phase 2 for trains beyond Manchester and allow them to be used for the inter-airport service.
The new pattern of service in phase 3 would be
30 tph for a service from Manchester Airport to Heathrow, Gatwick and Brighton
30 tph for a service from Manchester Airport to Stansted and Cambridge
30 tph for a service every 20 minutes from each of the GM boroughs to Manchester Airport and then a service every 2 minutes to London St Pancras. The additional services from the airport to the various GM boroughs making the service up to 12tph to each borough would continue to operate.
30 tph for a service every 2 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly to London St Pancras proceeding to the other London terminals (except Kings Cross which is immediately adjacent to St Pancras), 3tph to each of Liverpool St, Fenchurch St, London Bridge, Waterloo, Charing Cross, Victoria, Paddington, Marylebone, Baker St and Euston, each pod then proceeding to two Outer London stations – 1 tph to each of the stations on the London Hyperloop
THE LONDON HYPERLOOP
This would run from St. Pancras above London to the other London terminals and then beyond, above London railways, to various pairs of London stations.
From each of the following lines there would be a service of 3tph to each of the other lines (87tph), 1 tph to each of Heathrow, Manchester, Liverpool, the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe, Birmingham and one train every three hours to each of three pairs of cities in the East Midlands and the North East described below under the Yorkshire and East Midlands Tube. There would be spare capacity of 27tph to accommodate pods to other regional destinations with future expansion of the hyperloop system to other regions.
Even though in the distances concerned within London it would not be possible to reach full speed this system would still provide an express core to the London rail system as well as links from all parts of London to the main regional cities. The pods could run on in rail mode to other stations, or the London rail service could be re-planned so as to provide connections into the system. There will undoubtedly be debate about which 60 stations would have this service; I do not know London as well as I know the North but based on looking at maps of the London rail system and aiming at a reasonable distribution of the stations served across the whole of London it seems to me, as a starting point for discussion, that a possible pattern could be
via Baker St to South Ruislip then Uxbridge,
via Baker St to Tottenham Hale then Cheshunt
via Baker St to West Hampstead then Willesden Junction
via Marylebone to Wembley Stadium then Northolt,
via Marylebone to Harrow on the Hill then Hillingdon,
via Marylebone to Amersham then Chesham,
via Paddington to Ealing Broadway then Greenford or Brentford,
via Paddington to Windsor & Eton Riverside then Maidenhead,
via Paddington to Kingston-upon-Thames then Twickenham,
via Victoria to Hampton Court then Henley on Thames
via Victoria to Kew Gardens then Richmond,
via Victoria to Putney then Wimbledon,
via Waterloo to West Croydon then South Croydon,
via Waterloo to Acton Central then Hounslow
via Waterloo to Balham and Carshalton
via Charing Cross to Lewisham then Sidcup
via Charing Cross to North Dulwich and Tooting
via Charing Cross to Bromley South then Orpington
via London Bridge to West Ham then Barking
via London Bridge to Greenwich then Woolwich Ferry
via London Bridge to Bexleyheath then Dartford
via Liverpool St to Stratford then Canary Wharf,
via Liverpool St to Ilford then Romford,
via Liverpool St to Bethnal Green then Walthamstow Central,
via Fenchurch St to Dagenham then Gravesend Ferry (for ferry to Tilbury)
via Fenchurch St to Hackney Downs then Chingford
via Fenchurch St to Redbridge then Epping
via Euston to Queens Park then Watford Junction,
via Euston to Finchley then High Barnet,
via Euston to Harringay then Enfield,
THE AIRPORTS TUBE
This would run from Brighton to Cambridge via Gatwick, Heathrow, London St Pancras, London City Airport and Stansted. Between Gatwick and St Pancras there would be a double tube. The aim would be to allow such high speed transfer between Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Stansted and Manchester Airports that it would be possible for passengers to interchange between a flight into one such airport and a flight out of another, allowing them to serve as a single Hub. It should make expansion of airport capacity in the South East unnecessary. The hyperloop makes the regional option viable.
The pattern of service would be:-
Brighton – London St Pancras – Cambridge (additional intermediate stations could be served on a rotating basis) 15tph
Various other South Coast stations (Hastings, Eastbourne, Newhaven, Worthing, Shoreham, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis) starting in rail mode running to join the hyperloop then continuing to London St Pancras and Stansted Airport before proceeding in rail mode to various stations in Cambridgeshire)
Gatwick- Heathrow- London City – Stansted 60tph
Brighton – Gatwick- Heathrow – Manchester Airport 30tph
Manchester Airport – London St Pancras – London City – Stansted – Cambridge 30tph
THE SECOND AIRPORT TUBE (GATWICK – HEATHROW – LONDON ST PANCRAS ONLY)
6tph to Birmingham International
10 tph to Liverpool Airport
16 tph St Pancras to Heathrow shuttle
16 tph St Pancras to Gatwick shuttle
16 tph Heathrow to Gatwick shuttle
30 tph providing a service of 1 tph to each of the combinations of London stations referred to in the Manchester service.
6 tph to East Midlands Airport
36tph for future expansion, 4 tph to each of 9 other regional airports as the hyperloop system grows.
THE BIRMINGHAM TUBE
90tph London to Birmingham New St. continuing to Stafford and Crewe.
This would run above the West Coast Line.
Each pod would make one intermediate stop as follows:-
3 tph would stop at each current station from Harrow & Wealdstone to Coventry, and also at each of Willesden Junction and Birmingham International.
1 tph would call at each of the 9 closed stations over this length of line and also at Wembley Central, Queen’s Park and each of the four intermediate stations between Coventry and Birmingham International
In the case of services to Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Rugby, Coventry and Birmingham International, there would be a relief pod 30 second after each service.
3 stops would remain available for relief pods to deal with special events or traffic conditions.
The capacity is 90tph rather than 120tph because three flights of pods with a five minute gap between them would be necessary to accommodate wayside stops at up to 3tph.
The 6 pods which call at Birmingham International would run to St Pancras and proceed from there to Heathrow. 30 of the pods would run to St. Pancras and then on to other London terminals and then to Outer London stations as above under the description of the London service. The other 54 pods would run to London Euston – with rail services out of Euston substantially diminished (as described later) the use of the station to reduce the load on St. Pancras would be sensible.
27 of the pods would provide a 3tph service to each of Shrewsbury, Kidderminster, Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield, Rugeley, and Stafford. En route each would stop at two intermediate stations serving destinations like Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley, Longbridge, Walsall etc.) These would either run in rail mode or in hyperloop tubes built above railways. In the latter case a West Midlands express core service would share these tubes.
27 of the pods would proceed to Crewe of which 6 would proceed to Chester, 6 would proceed to Liverpool, 6 would proceed to the West Coast Main Line northwards, 6 would proceed to Wilmslow and Manchester, 1 would proceed to Stoke on Trent, 1 would proceed to Middlewich, Northwich and Knutsford and 1 would proceed to Runcorn (except for the service to Liverpool these would leave the hyperloop and proceed by rail)
With these services in place each existing station between Harrow & Wealdstone and Coventry would have a 20 minutely service to London and to Birmingham, and could make journeys to other intermediate stations by doubling back. The only remaining need for passenger rail services on the West Coast Main Line between Watford and Coventry would be for a stopping service to accommodate local journeys between stations that are too close together for doubling back to be sensible, some peak services to supplement capacity and a service for passengers who dislike the hyperloop or have extensive luggage. These needs could be met by some peak hour commuter services into Euston, a 20 minutely stopping service formed of trains from Croydon to Coventry, an hourly train from London to Birmingham calling at all the Inter-City stations and an hourly Pendolino from London to Crewe calling at all the Inter City stations to Rugby and then all the existing stations from there to Crewe, with through coaches to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, being divided at Crewe and marshalled into the trains that are being formed from hyperloop pods.
This would dramatically free capacity for freight on the West Coast Main Line. It would indeed do so even more so substantially than HS2.
THE LIVERPOOL & CREWE TUBE
This would run above the WCML via the Trent Valley
110 tph would run to Crewe and call there and another 5tph would leave the hyperloop at Stafford and proceed to Stoke on Trent and Macclesfield
There would be one flight of trains calling on a rotational basis at existing, reopened and new stations along the line, providing an hourly service. The other trains would run non-stop. The capacity would therefore be 115tph, ten paths being lost when the flight of stopping trains is followed by the flight of non-stop trains, but five of these paths being regained by use of paths vacated by the trains that leave the hyperloop at Stafford (to accommodate this the journey time would need to be extended by 30 seconds).
55 tph would proceed from Crewe to Liverpool.
30 tph would leave the hyperloop and be marshalled into trains proceeding northwards on the West Coast Main Line (3 ten car trains an hour, one to Glasgow, one to Edinburgh, one to Aberdeen)
15 tph would leave the hyperloop and link to a pod from Birmingham to proceed to Chester, Wilmslow, Manchester, Runcorn and Knutsford. The six Manchester via Wilmslow pods with the corresponding Birmingham pod could be marshalled into two car trains providing 2 tph stopping service to Manchester via Manchester Airport, 2 tph stopping service via Stockport and 2 tph express service. The pods to Chester would be marshalled at Chester into trains to North Wales originating as classic trains from Manchester, Liverpool or the West Coast Main Line.
10 tph would proceed to Liverpool Airport. These pods would originate at Heathrow
At the London end 30 tph from Liverpool and 30 tph from the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe would proceed to other London stations as described for the Manchester service. These pods and the pods to Heathrow would run to St. Pancras but the other pods would run to Euston.
At the Liverpool end 30tph would run on either in rail mode or in tubes above railways to various Merseyrail destinations, 6 tph to the Wirral, 6tph to Southport, 6 tph to Kirkby, 6 tph to St Helens, 3 tph to Aintree and Ormskirk, 3 tph to Hunts Cross. If these services ran in tubes rather than in rail mode the tubes would be shared by an express core to the Merseyrail system as in Manchester, London and perhaps the West Midlands.
THE YORKSHIRE AND EAST MIDLANDS TUBE
This would run above the Great Central Railway or its disused trackbed to Sheffield. They would be buried when they run alongside heritage railway or where it is environmentally necessary. They would then run above the M1 then above the ECML, then above the railway to Harrogate then above or along the disused railway to Northallerton.
45tph would run from London three times an hour to each pair of the following Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Northallerton (for onward travel to the North East) Each of these would originate from one of the sets of London stations shown previously providing each of these six major cities with a service of 1 tph to each London terminal and one train every 3 hours to each of the pairs of London stations.
12 tph would provide a service three times an hour to each of Hull, York, Bradford and Derby. The Hull, York and Derby services would also call at one of Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham or Sheffield, providing a link once every 80 minutes. The York service would complete its journey by rail, also serving Pontefract. The Derby service would call at two of Rugby, Leicester or Loughborough Central, leaving the hyperloop at Loughborough to complete its journey by rail. The station at Loughborough would be built as an extension of the heritage station, conserving the same style.
13 tph would provide a service once an hour (completing the journey by rail if the destination is off the hyperloop) to each of Wakefield, Huddersfield, Skipton, Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham, Harrogate, Ripon, Chesterfield, Aylesbury, Bracknell, Lutterworth, and Mansfield. They would also call at the major city closest to the destination.
6tph would provide a service to East Midlands Airport, also calling at one of Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds or Northallerton.
14tph would provide a service once every three hours to each of 42 small village stations along the line and their nearest major city destination.
THE WEST COUNTRY HYPERLOOP
The Wiltshire Group of THSG has suggested that a hyperloop to Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, coupled with upgrading of the Westbury and Salisbury rail routes for freight and local passenger services, could make possible the cancellation of many road schemes, including the A303 scheme. Clearly the concept of phasing so as to test the technology precludes doing everything at once, but we need to be aware of funding opportunities as well.
The West Country proposal offers opportunities to try out features of the hyperloop. Indeed it offers the capacity to test the exciting possibility that the hyperloop may be the way to revolutionise transport in rural areas, bringing to those areas the benefits of high speed travel that have previously been available only to cities.
The Victorian rail system tackled the problem of scattered settlements in rural areas by a combination of multiple lines along what is essentially one broad corridor, loops, spurs and railheads some distance from the communities served.
The speed of the hyperloop makes it possible to run a continuous loop, with passengers travelling round the loop in a single direction even if that is the wrong way round, since even a 700 mile loop would still take less than an hour. The speed also makes it possible to serve settlements by way of a spur; even a 12.5 mile spur adds only 2 minutes to the journey time of a pod which traverses it in both directions.
The enclosed form of the hyperloop also makes it easier cross water barriers as to run it underwater it is simply necessary to sink the tube
These three benefits offer distinct advantages for serving the West Country where water barriers and scattered settlements bedevilled the design of the railway system.
These advantages may well be relevant to other rural areas, which have not traditionally benefitted from high speed systems, hence the value in trialling a system in a rural area quite early in the process as soon as we have successfully trialled wayside stops with the Birmingham tube.
A main line running from London to Penzance above the line via Salisbury to Exeter and then above the A38 to Plymouth and then above the Great Western line to Penzance could operate as part of two continuous loops.
One could run from London to Taunton via the Westbury line and then above the disused railway formation via Barnstaple, Bideford, Torrington, Okehampton, Launceston, Wadebridge and Bodmin then above the A30 to Newquay and along the old railway line to Penzance as far as St Erth before diverting via St Ives and a new route on poles via St Just to Penzance, returning along the main line.
The other could run via the main line to Penzance, continuing on a new alignment to Mousehole and then underwater to Praa and and on a new alignment across the Lizard Peninsula via Porthleven and Helston to Falmouth before running above the Falmouth branch to Truro then running on a new alignment to Mevagissey, underwater to Fowey and then along the south coast above the coastal road to Polperro, Looe and Plymouth, then above the current railway via Totnes to Starcross (with loops through Torbay and spurs to Brixham and Dartmouth) then underwater to Exmouth, then along the old railway to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth, and then on a new coastal alignment to Seaton, Lyme Regis, Bridport, Weymouth, then above the railway to Dorchester, Wool, Wareham, Poole and Bournemouth then back to London above the M27 and M3.
The portion above the M27 and M3 could be double track and bidirectional so as to provide direct services from London to Winchester, Southampton, and Bournemouth continuing along the route of the old Somerset & Dorset railway to Bridgwater before running south above the rail line to Taunton to rejoin the rest of the system.
A link from Taunton –Tiverton – Exeter- Okehampton – Tavistock – Plymouth would not only serve Tavistock and Tiverton but allow pods outbound via Westbury to serve Exeter and Plymouth. Plymouth, Exeter and Penzance would serve as interchanges. A loop from Starcross to Exeter and then back to Exmouth would allow tubes inbound via Totnes to serve Exeter. A hyperloop along the old Axminster to Lyme Regis branch linking the main line to the coastal line would make it possible to run pods from London to Weymouth without running via Exeter. High speed frequent rail shuttles between Salisbury, Westbury and Trowbridge and between Castle Cary, Yeovil and Dorchester would augment the journey opportunities possible without going the long way round. A high speed frequent rail shuttle between Bodmin, Lostwithiel and Fowey would also link the three routes through Cornwall at a point where they are close together. The heritage railway at Bodmin could be compensated for the use of its track and station and consequent restrictions on its operations by giving it the Newquay branch via Luxulyan, with the National Railways route to Newquay being replaced on the Parkandillack route. Spurs could be provided to various other major communities off the main route such as Devizes, Minehead, Lynton, Ilfracombe, Padstow, Rock, Mullion, and Clovelly,
If each pod makes five stops in its circuit it should be possible to provide hourly connections for each pair of major stations, at least an hourly service to all existing stations and to new or reopened stations serving significant settlements, and at least a two hourly service to all other former stations on the railway lines above which the hyperloop operates. The railways above which the hyperloop operates would be reoriented to provide local stopping services and enhanced freight capacity. This could include a rolling motorway to the West Country along the Salisbury line and the Exeter to Plymouth line.
THE SCOTTISH HYPERLOOP
Hyperloop tubes above Scottish railways, above Scottish motorways, along or above some disused Scottish railways and above the West Coast Main Line from Crewe to Carlisle.
They would convey the services to Scotland from London and Birmingham, cutting out the classic rail portion of the phase 2 and phase 3 journeys. They would link every railway station in Scotland (and many former railway stations), either directly by a hyperloop service, or by a short feeder service to a hyperloop station, to Glasgow or Edinburgh. Usually these services would be between 2 tph and 6tph, although some remote stations might only have 1 tph. There would be a 120 tph service between Glasgow and Edinburgh. By changing at Glasgow and/or Edinburgh it would be possible to make a journey between any pair of stations, usually in less than 90 minutes (including waiting time at the hub). This would test the concept of hyperloop services radiating out from a hub using the high speed of the service to make it possible to travel in and out of the hub instead of direct.
The Scottish rail system would be recast to fulfil five main roles
- Journeys between stations less than 90 minutes apart on a stopping train where use of the hyperloop to double back at Edinburgh or Glasgow would save no time. Stopping services would operate along all Scottish railways to accommodate this traffic – the nature of these services would vary but in some cases could be tram-like in nature.
- Traffic with express journey times of less than 90 minutes where traffic is sufficiently heavy for it to be desirable to keep it off the hyperloop system by running fast trains. Also some services slightly longer than this where the hyperloop might offer some journey time advantage but it is desirable to keep heavy traffic off the hyperloop by running a cheaper service on the classic railway.
- Scenic services. On Highland lines and other scenic lines the stopping service would be formed of larger trains designed for viewing scenery and comfortable enough for longer journeys
- Feeder services to the hyperloop
- Trains for passengers who dislike the hyperloop or have extensive luggage
HYPERLOOPS FROM LONDON TO OTHER ENGLISH & WELSH CITIES
In this phase hyperloop lines would be built from London to other English and Welsh cities above railways or motorways. The consequent reduction in Inter-City classic rail traffic would release capacity to restore main line stopping services on all lines and to increase freight capacity.
HYPERLOOP TO NORTHERN IRELAND
A hyperloop could reach Northern Ireland by a tube above the railway to Dumfries, the main road to Stranraer, the disused railway to Portpatrick and then as a submerged tube to Larne.
HYPERLOOPS FROM LONDON TO RURAL AREAS
If the hyperloop to the West Country is successful similar plans should be made for other rural areas.
The Victorian railway reached out to towns and villages across the country, linking them to a national system. The hyperloop offers the opportunity to restore that. If it is possible to link most of the country to a national hub in under half an hour then it becomes possible by changing at the hub to travel between any two stations in no more than about 90 minutes, even allowing for waiting time at the hub. A possible site for such a hub could be Gravelly Hill in Birmingham adjacent to the major motorway junction.
A possible service pattern would be 120tph between the hub and London, 30tph between the hub and regional centres, 6 tph between the hub and county towns, and 1 tph from the hub to a wide range of towns and villages. Town and village stations could have a service of 1tph to the national hub, 2 tph to their regional centre, 3 tph to their county town and several services a day to London.
To create this network hyperloop tubes would be built above motorways, railways, and disused railway formation and some new routes would be built on poles across country.
By the time phase 6 comes to be built, highly autonomous vehicles will be normal and some towns and villages that lie off the main routes could be reached by pods leaving the hyperloop, deploying road wheels and proceeding as a driverless bus.
The hyperloop system this creates would be the centrepiece of a healthy transport system in which people make short journeys on foot or by cycle (although there would be demand-responsive highly autonomous driverless services for passengers who are disabled or with heavy luggage) and make longer journeys by the train/cycle combination.
Rail and stage-carriage bus services would be designed, as in the Scottish pilot, to accommodate journeys substantially shorter than 90 minutes, journeys of around 90 minutes where the traffic is heavy enough to keep it off the hyperloop, scenic journeys, and passengers who dislike the hyperloop or have extensive luggage.