Across three continents, the kind of futuristic high-speed transport that sends passengers far faster than a speeding bullet train to where they want to go is being built. It may be ready much sooner than you think.
South Korea is planning a tube-enclosed train that can travel at speeds of up to 1,000 km/h (620 mph), approaching the speed of sound (1,225 km/h). The state-run Korea Railroad Research Institute says that could carry passengers from Seoul to Busan in half an hour, a journey that currently takes just under three hours at minimum on a high-speed train.
The idea of high-speed travel in an enclosed tube isn’t new—it’s the concept behind the Hyperloop, the brainchild of Elon Musk. US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, earlier this month announced an agreement to design a route between Brno in the Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia, which will turn a more than 90-minute trip between the two cities into 10 minutes.
The company is also in the middle of preparing a feasibility study for Abu Dhabi for a route that would connect the city with Al Ain in about 10 minutes. The total cost of the project isn’t known but it would be about $40 million per kilometer, which equates to almost $6 billion for the two cities.
The company’s main competitor, Hyperloop One, is also making inroads in the United Arab Emirates. It’s working on a project that would link Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 12 minutes by carrying passengers in levitating pods, instead of a car trip that takes around an hour and a half.
In the US, a Richard Branson-backed startup called Boom plans to test out a smaller prototype of its new supersonic jet, which it purports will cut the time it takes to fly from New York to London to three hours and 15 minutes.