Should mass transport be free

Virgin Hyperloop: This transportation nonsense shouldn't be celebrated

Virgin Hyperloop has transported passengers for the first time. The world is celebrating it. But the US project is gigantic nonsense. A comment.

Two passengers are transported half a kilometer in a small vacuum capsule at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. And the world is celebrating that. Seriously?

Instead, when I look at the Virgin Hyperloop project in the US, I find it extremely sad because it shows what is going wrong in the country in terms of public transport and sustainable mobility.

VW Golf faster than Virgin Hyperloop

Because if we are completely honest, a Volkswagen Golf can transport more people faster and further on a German autobahn than Virgin Hyperloop did in a capsule called “Pegasus” in the desert near Nevada a few days ago.

So what is really celebrated in the successful Virgin Hyperloop passenger test is more of a promise than the first trip with people on board.

Because if the Hyperloop is actually finished at some point, it will roar through the area at speeds of 1,200 kilometers per hour and be a kind of intercity transport for major US cities. At least that is the vision.

It was driven by Elon Musk's white paper on the Hyperloop. As is so often the case with Musk, the idea is not new. But with his enthusiasm and his penchant for gigantomania, he managed to convince people around the world of the idea.

Engineers, companies and students are currently working on the Hyperloop from India to Germany. There is nothing wrong with that at first if you assume that the concept can really work.

Even if you can of course argue about whether you should invest in the expansion of the existing train tracks. Nevertheless, the Hyperloop projects in Europe - for example as a sustainable replacement for intra-European flights or domestic flights - don't bother me as much as in the USA.

In the USA, on the other hand, companies like Virgin Hyperloop only show the increased nonsense of the transport concepts in the country for me.

Amtrak is pathetic

The USA owes a large part of its pioneering role to the expansion of the 19th century train network from the east to the west coast. The trains were innovative for the time and brought economic progress to the country.

Until the decision was made to let the rail network (especially for passenger trains) deteriorate and instead to invest in the expansion of the highways and later the aviation industry.

The consequence is a poor train transport concept. For Americans, it is now normal that you need a car everywhere, that train journeys are disproportionately expensive and that trains run at snail-like speeds.

It may be a little arrogant. But from a European perspective, in which trains such as ICEs or TGVs have been running reliably, regularly and on their metropolitan routes at up to 300 kilometers per hour across the board for almost 40 years, Amtrak is a joke.

Amtrak is the largest passenger train operator in the USA and, with its 160 kilometers per hour (often slower), chugs along rather comfortably. That is the best case.

In other cases, for example on the route from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, the train takes almost eight hours to travel 400 kilometers.

Tickets are also expensive because government subsidies are more likely to flow into infrastructure measures for cars and airplanes than into the railways.

In addition, a route network of 300 passenger trains to 500 destinations per day is actually a joke in the vast country. For comparison: Deutsche Bahn offers an average of 800 long-distance connections a day, and that in Germany alone.

Affordable and Sustainable Transportation? Boring!

Now, of course, in the USA you could simply say: “Hey, let's ask the Europeans or Asians (Shanghai's Transrapid and Japan's Shinkansen send their regards) how to do it with high-speed trains and area-wide rail transport in a modern and affordable way.

Then we could also be more sustainable. And bring a lot of people quickly from A to B across the whole country in an environmentally friendly way. "

It just seems to either go against American pride or possibly spark anti-socialism reflexes. After all, rail projects in other countries are often state funded.

Instead, it takes concepts with superlatives and marketing-appropriate slogans such as "Write transport history" or "World novelty" to inspire Americans.

If it doesn’t look anything like the next moon landing, then there’s not much you can do in the US with such boring words as “train”, “rail infrastructure for passenger trains”, “affordable mass transportation”.

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Although it would be less time-consuming and cost-saving to expand the rail network than to pull a completely new transport system across the entire country. But that's probably too banal.

In the USA, for example, people prefer to celebrate a hyperloop, which has been very populous up to now, rather than really worrying about a sustainable, public infrastructure.

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