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The Swissmetro: An Innovative Concept

Hyperloop

In recent years, one of the most futuristic ideas in the field of transportation has been that of the Hyperloop – a high-speed train proposed by Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX.  However, the Hyperloop was not the first of its kind. Many other ideas for high-speed trains were proposed before the Hyperloop, but they ended up being rejected due to technological limitations, as well as funding. One such idea is the Swissmetro.

What is the Swissmetro?

Swissmetro

The Swissmetro is a high-speed metro project that was proposed as early as 1992 as a fast and efficient means of transportation between major Swiss cities but was finally abandoned due to insufficient support for the project. The project wanted to create a maglev train system underground. A maglev, or “magnetic levitation”, train transportation system is a system that seeks to use magnets and their properties to levitate the train on the railings. Combined with the use of low-pressure tunnels (where the air has been evacuated), a concept known as vactrain, this reduces the friction felt by the train. This means that the train is able to reach much higher speeds than standard trains. The Swissmetro project stated that it could reduce travel time from Zurich to Bern from 1 hour to just 12 mins.

What were the problems?

As you may imagine, a project like this requires very advanced technology and a lot of funding, as evacuating an entire tunnel down to a low enough pressure to produce a significant impact on velocity is not easy. The main and biggest problem is the money. You may think ‘but the Hyperloop is happening, why can’t this if it’s similar?’. Well, the thing is, that the Hyperloop is relatively cheaper than the Swissmetro because it doesn’t use a maglev system; it is, however, a vactrain, which is how it attains high velocities. Read more about the feasibility of the Swissmetro in this market study by Andrew Nash of ETH Zurich.

In conclusion, the Swissmetro is a visionary transportation project that could significantly impact the lives of frequent travelers and commuters, as well as completely change the way people see travel.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, the methods to make such a project become reality are too expensive, and therefore many innovative ideas like this one need to be dropped. However, the launching of the Hyperloop contest and the motivation it has given to people all over the world to work on creating the future of transport is no small feat. Read more about the Hyperloop and the race to create it in this article by Wall Street Journal.

Edited by: Briana Fannin