Transport planning – Melbourne to Sydney in 45 minutes – by train…
If the prototype VACTRAIN being developed in China becomes a reality, aeroplane speeds (or more) in train travel may become commonplace, making possible travel from Melbourne to Sydney in less than an hour, or even Sydney to Perth in not much longer….
The idea is not new – in fact, the first prototype “pneumatic tube” trains were constructed in the mid 1800’s in both the UK and the USA. They were similar to the pneumatic tube delivery systems seen in department stores in the past and are still seen in some banks. That is, the train was “blown” through the tube by creating a vacuum in front of the train and using atmospheric pressure to “push” the train along.
The problems with this are obvious – there needed to be a fairly perfect seal between the train and the tube, and speed was limited by the associated friction losses.
Many refinements to this approach were mooted in the 1950’s through the 1970’s – but they were all based on the same concept and none were built.
The technology, developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, that enables this new project to perhaps become reality is MAGLEV (Magnetic Levitation). China already has the world’s fastest MAGLEV train running between Shanghai airport and the outer suburbs. In normal operation it reaches 431 km/h, but in testing it easily exceeded 500 km/h.
With no wheels to create friction, the only barrier to higher speeds for the MAGLEV is wind resistance.
So, put the MAGLEV in an evacuated tube – and the sky is the limit. A speed of 1000 km/h (as is being discussed) would be quite easy to achieve as the train would have no theoretical energy losses.
Other proposals, such as one put forward in the USA, are even more optimistic – suggesting trips from New York to L.A. could be made in less than one hour, travelling at speeds up to 5000 km/h. Or even a proposal to build and “float” a tube a couple of hundred metres below the Atlantic ocean surface, opening up possibilities for travel between USA and Europe by train.
Supporters argue that despite the high costs of developing the tubes, the trains would be much more environmentally responsible as they only require about 25% of the energy compared to air travel.
Who knows – maybe the term “taking the tube to work” may mean something very different in the future!
Tell us what you think about fast trains …
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