Anyone who has been following the news recently will be aware of what’s going on. The Delft Hyperloop team is testing its vehicle in one of the two unused rail tunnel tubes at Delft Station. That information can be found on a range of news websites. Spoiler alert: these reports are fake. Although it is true that the team and ProRail are discussing the possibility of this plan.
Two of the four tunnel tubes will not be used in the coming years for train traffic, which offers opportunity. “ProRail is giving team Delft Hyperloop II the possibility to test in a northern section of one of the free tubes,” writes the railway manager in a press release. “To take advantage of this, they have to develop a system that will not involve drilling into the tunnel walls for safety reasons.”
‘It is still just an idea’
Asja Föllmi, from the Delft student team, explains that it is still just "an idea that both parties are enthusiastic about.” The piece of tunnel is about 1 km long. But nothing has been elaborated, she adds. “We must take a good look at all of the safety aspects. Plus there is the question of whether we can create a test track in the tunnel in time. The capsule will not be travelling on the train rails.”
The Hyperloop is a conceptual high-speed transport system involving tubes under low pressure through which capsules containing passengers or freight can travel suspended on magnets. This reduces the air resistance so much that efficient travel at high speeds becomes possible. That is the promise anyway.
Record: 467 kph
To stimulate the development of a working prototype, Elon Musk's company SpaceX has organised the Hyperloop Pod Competition. During the last competition, held last July at the headquarters of SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, the Delft Hyperloop team finished second. The Delft Atlas 01 capsule attained a speed of 142 kph. The winner was the WARR Hyperloop of TU Munich with a speed of 467 kph.
“We want to break that record next year,” stresses Föllmi from the Delft student team. "And yes, it would be great if we could use one of the railway tunnels for the tests." The Delft capsules achieved ‘only’ a speed of 142 kph in the last competition because the motor became overheated. "In the Hyperloop in California, it is incredibly hot. Our capsule was not designed for that high a temperature. This year we shall be taking that into account."
ProRail press officer Coen van Kranenburg confirmed that ProRail ‘is going to do its very best to make the test location possible’. "After all, the Hyperloop is the future of railways. It would be so cool if the capsule could be tested in the tunnel tube."