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Hyperloop proponents interested in Helsinki-Tallinn undersea route

Hyperloop tubes are displayed during the first test of the propulsion system at the Hyperloop One Test and Safety site on May 11, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hyperloop tubes are displayed during the first test of the propulsion system at the Hyperloop One Test and Safety site on May 11, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Source: (AFP/Scanpix)

Hyperloop One is interested in the proposed undersea connection between Helsinki and Tallinn. A pod travelling at airplane speeds would reduce travel time between the two cities to just six minutes, and building it would be cheaper and could be done sooner, the company argues.

Vice president of Hyperloop One, Alan James, was in Estonia last week to introduce the project. According to him, their high-speed pod would be a perfect fit for the proposed connection across the Gulf of Finland. The connection could become the infrastructure project of the 21st century and had the potential to change the economic and political geography of this area, James said.

Hyperloop One could build this connection faster, better, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly, he added.

The Estonian transit sector is carefully interested, though they are not convinced that Hyperloop’s schedule is realistic. “If we’re only talking about passenger transport, then this is a very serious alternative to a tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki,” CEO of AS Tallinna Sadam, Valdo Kalm, said. This mainly because the diameter of Hyperloop’s tube was much smaller than that of a railway tunnel, and because such a tube would likely be much cheaper to build.

“If we’re talking about getting to Helsinki in six minutes, I would extend this in the direction of Stockholm,” Kalm added.

At the same time, there is plenty of skepticism, especially where moving cargo is concerned. “Large goods will never be moved around by Hyperloop, or mass goods, there are so many technical reasons for that, and also financial ones, that won’t happen, so the railway isn’t out of the picture just yet,” transit expert and former chairman of the supervisory board of AS Eesti Raudtee, Raivo Vare commented.

According to Jüri Lavrentjev of the Tallinn University of Technology, there are additional problems. Beyond the fact that plenty of technological issues are not yet solved, there is also the aspect of security. If something were to go wrong in a Hyperloop tube, it would be a difficult problem getting to the passengers and rescuing them.

Hyperloop is a proposed pod-like vehicle that would move through a near-vacuum tube at speeds of more than 1,000 km/h. Driven by a linear electric motor, it would glide through the tube either by means of magnetic levitation, or on a very thin cushion of pressurized air. The system is currently being tested in the desert of Nevada in the United States.

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk was one of the first supporters the project, which is currently looking for a first route. Hyperloop One has previously presented a first business case for a Stockholm-Helsinki connection that would reduce travel time between the two capitals to just 30 minutes. Other routes have been discussed, in Russia, China, and the United Arab Emirates as well as in other locations in Europe.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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