A system of high-speed “hyperloops” to transport passengers between London’s main airports has been put forward by Sir Richard Branson’s latest venture.
Virgin Hyperloop One, a California start-up chaired by the Virgin Atlantic founder, has reportedly been studying the possibility of a series of high-speed tubes between Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted which it says would allow passengers to travel between the airports in as little as five minutes.
It says the hyperloop, a proposed transport system that involves futuristic pods travelling through low pressure tubes at speeds of up to 670 mph, would effectively turn London’s three major airports into one “hub”.
Virgin Hyperloop One’s chief executive Rob Lloyd said the plan could remove the need for a third runway at Heathrow.
“[We’re] thinking about how technology could make it a much different proposition than the third runway.
“You’d think of this as moving between terminals instead of moving between airports,” he said.
Lloyd said the company’s technical advisory board, made up of researchers and infrastructure experts, had assessed the possibility of hyperloops connecting the airports.
They estimated it would take five minutes between Heathrow and Gatwick, and seven to Stansted, the Daily Telegraph reported.
When Virgin Group invested in Hyperloop One last year, Sir Richard said it could mean a trip from London to Scotland taking as little as 45 minutes.
Virgin Hyperloop One wants to have a fully-working hyperloop transporting cargo by 2021, with passengers set to follow soon after, although the company has not yet signed a deal to build a track and would have regulatory barriers to overcome.
A paper published by the Department for Transport last month said a hyperloop in the UK would be “at least two decades away”.
The DfT’s science advisory council said potential problems with emergency braking, power failures and cyber attacks, as well as the need for largely straight routes, presented a number of “technical challenges”.
John Miles, a professor of energy strategy at Cambridge University who sits on Virgin Hyperloop One’s technical advisory board, said the idea had potential.
“[It] would give a huge amount of flexibility. That would be a massive contribution to solving London’s air transport problems,” he said.
However, Professor Miles said there are “some huge regulatory issues that have to be resolved”.
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