Finland primed for world’s first Hyperloop transportation
Hyperloop, a high-speed rail transportation system based on vacuum tubes, has raised interest all over the world for its efficiency and sustainability. But it is the Finnish city of Salo which could be home to the first station for this super-fast technology.
Imagine travelling between Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden in just 28 minutes instead of a one-hour flight plus waiting at airports. This bold vision may become reality thanks to a proposed Hyperloop link between the two capital cities which is estimated to bring annual savings of 321 million euros from the reduced travel time.
These are the results of the world’s first pre-feasibility study of a full-scale Hyperloop system produced by US-based technology specialist Hyperloop One, consultants KPMG and Finnish company FS Links. FS Links was founded a year ago to facilitate the building of a fixed link between the two Nordic countries.
“Hyperloop One is currently looking for a ‘proof of operations’ facility, so a research centre and rails, and they have already decided it will be in Europe,” says Mårten Fröjdö, partner at FS Links. “Many places are competing for it, but Finland has the lead as a we have made the first actual business case and are also the first company Hyperloop has invested in.”
Key to these plans is the Finnish city of Salo. The city, located 115 kilometres from Helsinki, has signed a ‘letter of intent’ with Hyperloop One to become the first test station along the proposed Helsinki-Stockholm route. Salo officials believe the super-fast connection would be a great opportunity for growth and new jobs in the high-tech city.
“As a city planner I believe the impact of this kind of a new system will be so huge you do not want to miss being in the front row,” explains Jarmo Heimo, city architect at Salo. “If it happens, it will change the nature of living in the Nordic region.”
Fact or science fiction?
The basic idea of Hyperloop technology is to transport passengers and goods in levitating pods which travel up to 1 200 kilometres per hour inside a tube with close to zero air pressure.
While this may sound like science fiction and questions still remain about the system’s viability, Fröjdö and Heimo are both confident the technology can work.
“None of the key technologies are novelties by themselves,” Fröjdö argues. “Tubes, magnetic levitation, evacuating air with pumps, are all in common use. Switching of pods at full speed and the transport electronics system are new innovations.”
At least three companies are working to be the first to get a Hyperloop system running. Of them Hyperloop One is well positioned to have a full-system test by the end of 2016 and a test station construction could start as soon as 2017. If Salo is chosen as its location, the first stage of a Hyperloop link between Finland and Sweden is predicted to be complete in six years’ time.
The next steps in FS Links and Salo’s plans are to find partners to fund the public-private initiative (the total cost is estimated to be 19 billion euros) and then secure a final agreement with Hyperloop One.
“There are still many things that need to be solved. But the pre-feasibility study shows the connection between Stockholm and Helsinki is not impossible,” Heimo says. “The challenges are money and execution.”
While the proposed Helsinki-Stockholm route could take 12-15 years to build, Heimo is genuinely excited by the potential of the plans. A fast way to transport goods would open up completely new business opportunities, while people could quickly and easily commute from one country to another.
“It would mean Southern Finland and Sweden would be like one city. If you can go from one to the other in half an hour, you could go to Stockholm for business discussions as easily as for a cup of coffee in your own neighborhood cafe,” Heimo concludes.
Text: Eeva Haaramo