Hyperloop at launch festival 0216 Image: Kevin Krejci/Flickr Hyperloop at launch festival 0216 Image: Kevin Krejci/Flickr

“In 20 years’ time riding a plane will seem like riding a horse,” said Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop One. One thing is for sure, if the vision unveiled by the company recently, is only partially viable, the world is set to see dramatic changes.

Phone rings

“Hi mate, where are you?”

“London,” you hear yourself say, “where are you?”

“In your favourite pub in Manchester, fancy a drink.”


“Half an hour?”

“Sure, see you in in a bit.”

And there you have it. According, to the vision presented by Hyperloop One recently, we will take a hyperloop pod along a kind of side route, to the main terminus, where our pod will join the main route to wherever we are going, say London to Manchester, and then when it gets to Manchester, goes down another side route to our destination. For much of the journey we will travel at speeds approaching 1,000 kilometres an hour, and door to door, let’s say from our office in London to our favourite pub in Manchester, we will do it in around half an hour.

Let’s say this can happen, and let’s say it can happen within two decades, you could say this will mark a dramatic change to transport, the reality is it will change the world.

Hyperloop One was unveiling its plans at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

In case you need a refresher, hyperloop is the idea first proposed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, involving levitated pods travelling in partial vacuums inside tubes, at speeds close to those achieved by aircraft.

Musk’s original idea was to create a super-fast journey linking Los Angeles to San Francisco, but the first planned route from Hyperloop One is from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The journey will take 12 minutes – travelling just shy of 100 miles, reaching a top speed of 760 miles per hour – or so claims the company.

Expect to hear more over the next 12 weeks, as a feasibility study takes place.

Shervin Pishevar said: “In 20 years, the whole world will be interconnected by Hyperloop. . . In 20 years, riding in a plane will seem like riding a horse, except it's a lot more dangerous to fly. We can move the world ahead faster and make the world a much smaller place. The idea of borders and boundaries begin to melt away when you can travel so fast between places."

He also unveiled a hyperloop system which will entail unloading cargo ships at sea, moving their load via ports on the sea, into tubes that travel under the sea bed.

Returning to Shervin Pishevar, he said; “The . . . system means unloading can happen offshore and the tube can unload the load in the desert. It gets trucks off the roads. You can unlock billions of dollars of waterfront property for redevelopment."


But how much will this cost?

When Elon Musk first unveiled his plan, he envisaged subsidising the cost of travel via advertising, and that the actual ticket would be exceptionally cheap, circa $20 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Leaked documents suggest that Hyperloop One’s Abu Dhabi to Dubai route will cost $4.8 billion and around $30 million a kilometre. That’s expensive, but HS2 is supposed to cost £51.30 million a kilometre, so if the leaked documents are right, per unit of distance, it will be half the cost of HS2.

Presumably, the cost of hyperloop will fall dramatically with scale, and the more it is taken-up world-wide.

Then again, building a transport link in the desert is a quite different challenge to building a link across the English countrywide.

And how much hyperloop will really cost remains something of a mystery.

We still don’t know how much of this is hype and not practical, or whether, over the next decade or so, technological hurdles will be overcome and costs will fall at a Moore’s Law type trajectory.

If the dream unveiled by Hyperloop One is how things pan out, then hyperloop may indeed change the world, commuting two or three hundred miles to work will be both common and easy, and international borders may come to seem like a quaint custom.