The world’s need for better mass transportation systems is becoming more obvious as we continue to experience intensifying traffic problems every day. Our dependence on rapidly depleting fossil fuels also harm the environment the more we use them. Thanks to advancements in technology, it seems engineers are close to developing a land transport that may be able to get us to our destination at the speed of sound.
The Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) announced its plans to develop a passenger train that can travel almost at the speed of sound – a blistering 1000km/h. Collaborative efforts with Hanyang University and other groups are in the works to study the viability of the concept and similar technologies revolving around the so-called ‘hyper-tube format’ for the next few years.
The fastest trains using magnetic levitation can travel up to 600km per hour. Increasing air resistance hampers the train from going further, leading engineers to continuously alter the train’s structure and design to compensate for the air drag. Hypothetically, this hyper-tube train will exceed traditional train’s speeds, traveling from Seoul to Busan in just 30 minutes. Traditional rail systems take up to 5 hours to traverse this length and around 50 minutes for a plane.
Placing seated pods inside low-pressure tubes is the key to achieving supersonic speeds for land transports. The pods will encounter less air resistance since the air will be sucked out to create a partially vacuum tube. A series of magnets will be placed along strategic parts of the tube to magnetically accelerate the pod to the next stations.
The science behind this super train isn’t entirely new. Elon Musk introduced the concept a few years ago, challenging innovators to continue the initiative and make the theory a reality. Hyperloop One picked it up and has already signed an agreement with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to connect Dubai to other parts of the United Arab Emirates using the hyper-tube system.
The hyper-tube is also prone to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or simple wear-and-tear which can turn things upside down for this tech, much like how traditional trains gets derailed when something goes wrong with the rail tracks. A small puncture along the tube will cause catastrophe to the traveling pods inside. These are some scenarios researchers are still looking into as part of continuous feasibility studies revolving around mass hyper-tube transportation.
With this development, South Korea aims to pick up the pace and lead the race against competitors like China, Canada, and the United States in developing the first successful hyper-tube transport system. KRRI said we’ll see the state-of-the-art, subsonic train in action in the near future and we’re all hoping we’re still alive to witness it by then.