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High speed rail race heats up

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Hyperloop Technologies and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are locked in a high-stakes race to create the first hyperloop, a low-pressure tube in which levitating capsules carry passengers at nearly the speed of sound. Photo: Hyperloop Technologies Inc.

An artist’s impression of Hyperloop.


TWO competing companies pitching high speed transport solutions for Australia’s east coast have faced off at a parliamentary committee hearing.

Executives from Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) — the Australian private company proposing a high speed rail network connecting Sydney to Melbourne and eight brand new cities in between, and Hyperloop One — the US-based project that plans to take commuters between the two cities via supersonic tubular capsules in under an hour, have given evidence to the parliamentary committee on infrastructure, transport and cities in Sydney.

Both projects have been publicised and attracted great attention, and various criticisms, in announcing their respective plans to revolutionise travel in Australia.

Each claims to be advanced in its plans to equip Australia’s east coast with a faster transport solution to service our major cities’ growing populations, and they’re both reaching out for government support.

In appealing to Australian MPs, CLARA’s chairman Nick Cleary told the committee his company’s proposal “isn’t a high speed rail plan”, but a “real estate investment plan and a development plan”, that comes with a very fast train.

A sketch of a Hyperloop capsule with passengers on-board. Picture: Tesla Motors/AP

A sketch of a Hyperloop capsule with passengers on-board. Picture: Tesla Motors/APSource:AP

Mr Cleary said though CLARA is advanced in its plan for developing regional hubs connected by a high speed rail line, it was yet to make a decision when it came to which type of fast train technology to employ.

“We haven’t settled on a technology at this stage,” he said.

“Hyperloop is certainly coming online, there’s obviously some proof of concept that will need to come out of that. Given that we haven’t settled on a technology provider, we’re open to that discussion.”

But in an exclusive interview with news.com.au ahead of the committee hearing, Hyperloop One executives indicated there was more competition between the two projects than Mr Cleary was letting on.

Though CLARA says it is open to working with technology providers like Hyperloop, Hyperloop One vice president Alan James indicated the two projects were not compatible.

He said while CLARA “fundamentally have a good idea”, that Hyperloop One was “a bit smarter” in they way they approached developing their transport system.

Hyperloop Ones proposed network. Picture: Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One’s proposed network. Picture: Hyperloop OneSource:Supplied

“Sydney house prices are the second most expensive in the world after Hong Kong depending on who you listen to, and you have immense disparity of value between that of Melbourne and the rest of Australia,” Dr James said while discussing CLARA’s strategy to manage the cities’ population growth by attracting residents to the new cities along the proposed rail network.

“Clearly by building transport connectivity between places that are currently undervalued and places that are currently overvalued, ideally what you get is a spread of economic opportunity, and people can live in different places and work in different places.”

But Dr James said Hyperloop preferred to service existing communities already in need of development, rather than work to create new cities.

“We’ll work with people on the ground to realise the existing development opportunities in place that need the development and want it,” he said.

“But it’s also about ensuring there is public benefit to places that are connected with a public transport system, not just private ventures, after all that’s what this is, it’s public transport.”

Hyperloop One announced its plans to develop a high-speed transport system along the Sydney to Melbourne corridor earlier this month. If successful, the system would serve as a possible testing ground for the lightning-fast travel system for long distances its been developing since 2013.

CLARAs plan involves building entirely new cities, plus a high speed rail network to connect them.

CLARA’s plan involves building entirely new cities, plus a high speed rail network to connect them.Source:Supplied

A fully-functioning testing unit in Nevada will be operational in the first quarter of next year, Dr James said.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee, another representative from Hyperloop One said the company was at the stage where it wanted to continue discussions with government figures and begin to explore operations test for transporting freight and passengers.

“Hyperloop One are simply looking for a letter of intent from government to continue that work and that conversation,” he said.

CLARA executives are also seeking government backing.

In a speech in Sydney last month, earlier this month, Mr Cleary said: “What’s standing in our way is political will”.

“We think that comes from a community level, and we’ve had tremendous support from local government from right across our network … that should give the government a certain level of satisfaction that there is community will behind it and open up the gates for us,” he said.