Construction of Europe’s first Hyperloop test track is now underway

16 Apr 2018

Construction of the Hyperloop test track gets underway in Toulouse, France. Image: Hyperloop Transport Technologies

Hyperloop technology has reached its latest milestone, moving outside of the confines of the US with the first European test track.

While the Hyperloop concept has yet to begin any commercial operations, two companies have emerged as most likely to achieve that dream: Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transport Technologies (HyperloopTT).

While the latter has remained silent for the best part of a year, it recently announced that it is building its first full-scale passenger and freight tubes as part of a test track at its R&D facility in Toulouse, France.

With an interior diameter of four metres, the first phase of the test track includes a 320-metre system that is expected to be operational within a year, while a second full-scale system of 1km pylons at a height of 5.8 metres will be completed in 2019.

Testing is expected to get underway in the summer, HyperloopTT said, when the full-scale passenger capsule is completed in its site at Carbures, Spain.

“Five years ago, we set out to solve transportation’s most pressing problems: efficiency, comfort and speed. Today, we take an important step forward to begin to achieve that goal,” said HyperloopTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn.

“Hyperloop is more than just displays of rapid acceleration and more than just breaking speed records. The real opportunity is to create an efficient and safe system with an unparalleled passenger experience.”

The company’s decision to focus its efforts in Europe comes after it failed to obtain permission to build a track in California, with the state government saying it did not adhere to its environmental review process.

Competition heats up

HyperloopTT added that it currently has agreements in place with nine countries and has plans for a public unveiling of the test track in the coming months.

When completed, it will become the third Hyperloop track in the world, following on from the one built by SpaceX and its rival, Virgin Hyperloop One.

Since its takeover by Richard Branson’s company in late 2017, Virgin Hyperloop One has received substantial financial backing and recently attempted to woo the interest of the Saudi Arabian government with a demonstration at its own test track.

In a video released earlier this month, the company’s full-scale Vision 2030 Hyperloop Pod was fired down its stretch of test track, with crown prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud seemingly impressed.

Meanwhile, the Irish Éirloop team remains hopeful of travelling to the SpaceX Hyperloop competition in a few months’ time, having received support from companies including RS Ireland.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic