Europe’s longest hyperloop center opens in the Netherlands

Europe’s longest tube intended to test hyperloop train technology is inaugurated on Wednesday in the Netherlands, with operators hoping that passengers could one day be transported from Amsterdam to Barcelona in a few hours.

In a disused railway center near Veendam in the north of the country, there is a sleek white Y-shaped tube 420 meters long, made up of 34 interconnected pipes approximately 2.5 meters wide.

The hyperloop, a very fast magnetically levitated train concept, consists of circulating pressurized capsules held in the air by magnets, in a low-pressure tube, at a speed that could reach 1000 km/h.

After twelve years of research, the futuristic means of transport dusted off in 2012 by Elon Musk is struggling to come to fruition, even if several companies are still working on the subject.

The European Hyperloop Center in the Netherlands is the only facility in the world to have a “track changer”, a tube extending from the main track, to test what happens when a capsule changes trajectory at high speed. speed.

This bifurcation is “necessary to create a network”, with part of the infrastructure going “for example towards Paris, the other towards Berlin”, Sascha Lamme, director of the center, explains to AFP.

Mr. Lamme envisions a network of 10,000 kilometers of hyperloop tubes crisscrossing Europe by 2050. “If you look at how highways have been developed over time, it goes exponentially when the technology is ready,” he notes.

“We have created something very scalable. It can go very quickly. So it really should be possible to enter a train station in Amsterdam and go to a city like Barcelona in two hours,” says Lamme.

“Just like flying, but without the hassle,” he says.

Dutch company Hardt Hyperloop plans to carry out the first tests with capsules in the coming weeks. The center is open to companies developing any aspect of hyperloop technology.

However, scientists admit that they still have a “long road” ahead of them and are still far from testing with passengers.

Such full-scale tests should be possible by 2030, Mr. Lamme estimates, probably over a short journey of around five kilometers, from an airport to a city for example.

” Very comfortable “

Elon Musk has floated the idea that a hyperloop tube could connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 30 minutes, compared to a six-hour drive or an hour by plane.

Since then, several cities around the world have embarked on research projects costing millions of euros, but no operational line has seen the light of day.

However, scientists are not throwing in the towel. China has long installations capable of reaching speeds of nearly 700 km/h, says Mr. Lamme.

Supporters of the hyperloop assure that it produces no pollution, no noise and blends into the decor, both urban and rural.

“The energy consumption of hyperloop as a mode of transport is much lower” than that of others, observes for AFP Marinus van der Meijs, director of technology and engineering at Hardt Hyperloop.

“It also requires less space to operate because we have these tubes that can easily be placed underground or up high,” he says.

Critics of the hyperloop say that it is a pipe dream and that it is not certain that a passenger would appreciate being propelled through a narrow tunnel at a speed close to that of sound.

But van der Meijs said the feeling of acceleration should not be much different from that of a high-speed train.

“The passengers will go faster, but it all depends on the forces. It’s like an airplane. When it’s in the air and traveling at a constant speed, you don’t feel it,” he explains.

“We will make sure that it is a very comfortable journey,” promises Mr. Lamme, imagining “a capsule with a nice ceiling possibly representing stars or a beautiful sunny day.”

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