Friday, May 13, 2011

Vactrains: It's Time for Really High Speed Rail

High speed rail is a popular idea with many people. The US may or may not build a high speed or higher speed or not-very-fast-at-all network of new trains over the next several decades. In this context the May issue of Popular Science (cover above, the story is not online but here is a link to a gallery of "Thrilling Trains of the Future".) looks at the potential for maglev systems to improve train speeds above conventional high speed rail. There are only a few maglev systems in operation, including a 19-mile link between Shanghai's Pudong airport and the city center. Those riders get a 7.5 minute trip and a top speed of 268 miles per hour.

But the article highlights what is really exciting: the potential for vacuum sealed tubes where trains can travel at 4,000 miles per hour! New York to Los Angeles in 41 minutes! If we build a vactrain between NYC and LA we can abandon the plans for the burrito tunnel we so desperately need. Here is a link to et3, a company that specializes in evacuated tube transport technologies and is working with some Chinese scholars and companies on pilot projects.

I'm not sure how well "evacuated tube transport technologies" will play as a name, however.

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