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The European Hyperloop Center aims to pave the way for a new era of transport in the Netherlands

A quarter-mile-long tube of white steel running along a railway line in the windswept north of the Netherlands could usher in a new era in transporting people and goods.

The tube is the heart of the new European Hyperloop center which opens on Tuesday and will provide a testing ground in the coming years for developers of this evolving technology.

Hyperloop, once trumpeted by Elon Musk, involves capsules floating on magnetic fields traveling at speeds of around 435 mph in low-pressure tubes. Its supporters see it as far more efficient than short-haul flights, high-speed trains and freight trucks.

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But since Musk unveiled the concept that he said could transport passengers nearly 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, it has progressed at a much slower pace from the drawing board to the real world. .

“I think by 2030 you will have the first hyperloop route, about three miles long, that people will actually carry passengers on,” said center director Sascha Lamme. “In fact, preparations are already underway for such routes, for example in Italy or India.”

Not everyone is so optimistic about Hyperloop’s future.

“This is just another example of policymakers chasing a shiny object when basic investment in infrastructure is needed,” said Robert Noland, distinguished professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Rutgers University Policy, in comments emailed to The Associated Press.

“It costs too much to build,” he added.

A tube seen at the European Hyperloop center in the Netherlands. The center will use the tube as a testing ground for developing the technology. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Lamme said skeptics should come and take a look for themselves.

“We built the European Hyperloop Center and from what we’ve built, we know we can be competitive with high-speed rail,” he said. “And then we haven’t even included all the cost optimizations that we we can do over the coming decade to reduce this even further. “

The test center tube is made up of 34 separate sections, most measuring 2.5 meters (more than eight feet) in diameter. A vacuum pump in a steel container next to the tube draws in air to reduce internal pressure. This reduces drag and allows the capsules to travel at such high speeds.

A test capsule built by Dutch hyperloop pioneer Hardt Hyperloop will take part in the first tests next month at the center funded by private investment as well as contributions from the provincial government, the Dutch national government and the European Commission.

A unique feature of the Veendam tube is that it has a switch, where it splits into two separate tubes, an infrastructure element that will be essential to real-world applications.

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“Lane changing is very important for hyperloop, because it allows vehicles to travel from any origin to any destination,” said Marinus van der Meijs, director of technology and engineering. by Hardt. “It really creates a network effect where you kind of have a highway of tubes and vehicles can take an entrance and exit ramp or change lanes to go to another part of Europe or to another destination.

As testing continues in Veendam, Hyperloop developers hope that destinations for their technology will become available soon.

“In reality, the main challenge is to find government commitments to build roads and, on the other hand, to find new financing to carry out the testing facilities and technological demonstrations necessary to make this happen,” he said. Lamme said.

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