It is said that Henry Ford sent out a survey asking the people of his time what they would like to see in the transportation of the future. The most frequent response was, “Faster Horses”. Now I don’t suppose that this story is really true. But it underlies a human limitation — we lack imagination as to “what might be”, we struggle to “think the unthinkable”. Indeed, we had an example of this type of limited thinking just the other day. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported the results of a survey in which people were asked if they trusted driverless cars. The majority of the respondents said that they did not. But of what value is such an opinion when none of the people surveyed have yet to even see a driverless car on the roads?
Which brings us to our so-called “High Speed Rail” project. Let us list the parameters that we would like to see on the project.
- It should use an existing right of way so as to minimize disruption to communities such as Ashland and rural neighborhoods.
- It should be genuinely high speed — with straightaway speeds greater than 500 mph.
- It should provide frequent, reliable service along the east coast corridor.
- It should be supported by a more conventional local train service that feeds into the high speed rail system.
So how do the current options look given this framework?
- In the Ashland area the existing rights of way are not used. Either the track bed through town is greatly expanded or a new right of way to the west will have to be established.
- The proposed speed of 62.5 mph between Richmond and D.C. is only one tenth of the target.
- The proposed service will provide a modest increase in the number of trains and in their reliability (resulting from less congestion on the tracks) — but not a step change in the scope of the service.
- Currently there is no clear distinction between local and express services, at least south of Fredericksburg.
We are planning for slightly faster horses.
Those readers who have followed this blog for the last year know that I am intrigued by the possibility of having hyperloop trains along the east coast. The concept behind them has been explained in other posts such as here and here.
Let us see how hyperloop addresses the above four questions.
- The hyperloop tubes could be mounted on concrete pillars running along the existing I-95 corridor. The pillars would be between the highway lanes so it would not be necessary to rebuild the freeway.
- Straightaway speeds would be over 600 mph.
- The service would be frequent and reliable since it would not use the existing tracks.
- The system could be supported by conventional trains (Amtrak/VRE) stopping at all stations between Richmond and D.C.
Check / Check / Check /Check
Hyperloop technology is rapidly coming to fruition — this is not science fiction. For this reason I intend to keep posting information to do with hyperloop and discuss how it could form the basis of a true High Speed Rail project and so perform an end run around the “faster horses” DRPT project.
Hyperloop technology is rapidly coming to fruition — this is not science fiction. For this reason I intend to keep posting information to do with hyperloop and discuss how it could form the basis of a true High Speed Rail project.
So, here is today’s information
Hyperloop One’s “DevLoop” is a 500-meter full-scale test structure that weights over a thousand tons. One tube measures 3.3 meters in diameter and the test track has been put together in the Nevada desert.