Complex Made Simple

The UAE reveals a machine that will make you and time fly

It looks like something you’d see in a James Bond or sci-fi movie.

It flies above or below ground almost frictionless, but it’s no plane.

It uses a rail-like system but it’s no train, and while one day it can cross oceans, it’s no boat.

What is it and is Elon Musk at it again?

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Get ready for 1200 km/hr ground travel

It’s the newest revolution in travel that Hyperloop is bringing to Dubai. Designs were unveiled for a transport system which could cut travel times between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to just 12 minutes, according to UAE’s Roads and Transport Authority RTA.

According to Fortune magazine, Hyperloop is a futuristic, high-speed, system of depressurized tubes for transporting people and packages, first popularized in 2013 by Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

This UAE hyperloop is indeed a tube-based inter and intra-city transportation system for passengers and cargo that uses magnetic levitation and propulsion allowing people-carrying capsules to zip at high speeds in a tube almost frictionless and safely.

Zip? The Hyperloop technology uses an electromagnetic propulsion system to accelerate the movement of goods and services through a vacuum tube.

“The system is designed to assist the levitation of the capsule slightly off the track within the tube and move it at speed up to 1200km/hour, according to RTA.

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RTA and Virgin Hyperloop One Company said they have made “considerable progress” in the technical, engineering and economic feasibility study of the project.

Sci-fi? Not quite. Fact is it’s real and it makes perfect sense.

Costs and fees involved

Building a hyperloop system, on average, costs anywhere between $20-$40 million dollars per km, and this based on global projects, where the terrain, like mountains, or infrastructure (tunnels) play a big role in factoring in the end price.

The routes for this project have been identified while the RTA also revealed that the Hyperloop will have deluxe interiors, cutting-edge broadcasting and display of information and entertainment materials as well as leather seats.

According to RTA, the Hyperloop aims to lift about 10,000 passengers per hour in both directions between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (Assuming 40-50 people per capsule, that’s 200-250 capsules needed).

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Hyperloops usually go the public private partnership financing route where the government is asked to put 30% of total investment, and the rest through the private sector.

According to global hyperloop projects being estimated worldwide, building a hyperloop system, on average, costs anywhere between $20-$40 million dollars per km.

According to the Guardian daily, Musk put a price-tag of about $10.6 million per kilometer on a Hyperloop in California. Nicolas McLean, an engineer at the University of Queensland, analysed the cost of building a similar Hyperloop along the eastern coast of Australia he concluded, “the cost of the overall system was roughly 10 times larger than Musk’s initial prediction … which relied on undeveloped or immature technology”.

Passengers end up paying anywhere between $5 to $25 per ride.

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“When introduced in future, the Hyperloop technology will impact the town planning and the availability of parking spaces. It will revolutionise people mobility between various destinations in the city, logistical hubs like airports & ports, and shipping patterns,” said Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of RTA.

Rob Lloyd, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, added: “The UAE and RTA were early supporters of our hyperloop technology. Our focus in 2018 would be continuing the close collaboration with RTA to progress to the next phase of the project. Our aim would be to explore the viability of a wider UAE Hyperloop network.”

Finally, there are no technological barriers to build sub oceanic hyperloops and make it compete with boat travel as well.

Just complicated financials.

But just like RTA, could there be an Emirates or Etihad hyperloop?

There should be.

Carriers could be looking at the technology as an opportunity to expand their passenger experience on both the ground and possibly at high altitude.