What is Hyperloop and why it won't work in India

Will Hyperloop One be able to connect India with its ambitious plan?

Hyperloop One, the US-based company that is leading the global efforts in commercialising the hyperloop technology proposed by Elon Musk, is coming to India with a lucrative offer. The proposition is to reduce the travel time between the selected destinations from hours to a few minutes. Though the idea that seems impossible is well within our reach of execution, executing the same in India however, poses some serious constraints.

The offer that the company has proposed includes linking four destinations– Mumbai – Chennai; Bengaluru – Thiruvananthapuram; Chennai – Bengaluru and Mumbai – Delhi, via a hyperloop that would silently glide people between destinations at super-speed within minutes. The distance between Chennai and Bengaluru which otherwise takes a little over an hour to complete via flight would be reduced to just half and hour. Similarly, the travel time between Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru too would be reduced to minutes.

Hyperloop India, the company that is pioneering the global efforts to transform transportation, has submitted its letter of intent to the ministry of Railways. Once the proposal gets the acceptance by the ministry, the ambitious project is likely to transform the way we commute. But is it even feasible in a country like ours?

Before we dig into the details, we must know what the concept is.

What is hyperloop?

Hyperloop is a futuristic transportation concept that intends to transport people to their destinations at super speeds. The concept was first proposed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk in 2013. However, he is not involved with Hyperloop One, the company that is pioneering the project in India and elsewhere.

Hyperloop is basically a capsule levitating inside a tube with minimal air to create a vacuum. Inside the tube, the capsule can move at a speed of more than 1000 kilometre per hour.

The first such line is expected to be build between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in next 5 years, which will reduce the travel time from 90 minutes to just 12 minutes.

Why hyperloop won’t work in India?

Hyperloop is a lucrative concept however, it is quite possible that it won’t work in India. The reasons for it are simple– geography and economy. The Indian terrain poses a serious problem for the project. The region where the company plans to build the project includes– coastal plains (near Chennai), the Deccan Plateau (near Bengaluru), low coastal plains (near Mumbai) and fertile riverine plains (near Delhi). Connecting such diverse geographies via a direct route is a task, complexities of which cannot be foreseen.

Another factor that would play an important part is the cost of operation. The company says that it intends to ‘move people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket’ and to reduce the cost of operation, the company plans of erecting solar panels and windmills. According to reports, building 1 Km line will cost the company a whopping Rs 300 crore. However, the company says that the cost of building a kilometre of the line would cost the company just Rs 72 crore. Even so, maintaining low cost and profitability keeping in view the spending power of middle-class citizens of the country would be a tough task for the company. Moreover, hyperloop would pass through the fertile plains at some locations. Amid such circumstances, securing a government approval would be no less than a challenge.

Hyperloop is an ambitious project, but will it be able to connect India? Only time will tell.