WEEEDAM, Netherlands (AP) – A 420-meter (quarter-mile) white steel pipe running along a railway track in the windswept north of the Netherlands could usher in a new era in transporting people and cargo. be.

The tube is the centerpiece of the new European Hyperloop Center, which opens on Tuesday and will be a testing ground for developers of the evolving technology for years to come.

Hyperloop, once touted by Elon Musk, involves a capsule suspended in a magnetic field zipping through a low-pressure tube at speeds of about 700 kilometers per hour (435 miles per hour). Its proponents tout it as far more efficient than short-haul flights, high-speed rail and freight trucks.

But ever since Musk unveiled his concept that could shuttle passengers the nearly 400 miles (645 kilometers) between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, the idea has moved from scratch to reality at a much slower pace. There is.

“We expect that by 2030 we will have completed the first hyperloop route that actually transports passengers over a distance of perhaps 5 kilometers (3 miles),” said Sasha Lam, the center's director. “In fact, preparations for such a route are already underway in countries such as Italy and India.”

Not everyone is optimistic about Hyperloop's future.

“This is just another example of policymakers chasing shiny objects at a time when fundamental investments in infrastructure are needed,” Robert Noland, a distinguished professor at Rutgers University's Bluestein School of Planning and Public Policy, told AP. said in a comment emailed to the news agency.

“It's too expensive to build,” he added.

Rame said skeptics should come and see for themselves.

“We built the European Hyperloop Center and we know from what we've built so far that it can compete with high-speed rail,” he said. “And that doesn’t even include all the cost optimizations that can be done over the next 10 years to reduce it even further.”

The test center tube consists of 34 separate sections, most of which are 2.5 meters (more than 8 feet) in diameter. A vacuum pump in a steel container next to the tube sucks out the air, reducing the internal pressure. This reduces drag and allows the capsule to move faster.

A test capsule manufactured by Dutch hyperloop pioneer Hart Hyperloop will take part in its first tests next month at the center, which was funded by private investment and donations from state governments, the Dutch central government and the European Commission. do.

A unique feature of Veendam tubes is that they are equipped with a switch, where they are split into two separate tubes and become part of the infrastructure that is critical for practical applications.

“Lane switching is very important for Hyperloop because it allows the vehicle to travel from any origin to any destination,” said Marinus van Hurd, director of technology and engineering at Heard. Del Mace said. “So it really creates a network effect where it’s like a tube highway and vehicles can turn on and off, switch lanes and go to different parts of Europe or different destinations.”

While testing continues at Veendam, hyperloop developers are hoping to see a destination for their technology soon.

“The really big challenge is finding government commitment to build the route, while also finding new funding to deliver the test facilities and technology demonstrations needed to make this a reality,” Lam said. said.

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