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Hyperloop, the superfast 'vacuum train,' is coming to China

Tongren city in Guizhou province has become the first city in Chi...

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 1:37 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 1:37 PM

Tongren city in Guizhou province has become the first city in China to sign an agreement with US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT).

The superfast, futuristic transportation was first envisioned by Elon Musk in 2013. Hyperloop can move people and cargo up to about 1,000km/h through low-pressure, nearly-zero-friction tubes using pressurized capsule rides.

The initial deal between HTT and Tongren Transportation & Tourism Investment Group covers the building of a 10-kilometer test track.

New speed records

"Ten kilometers is the necessary starting point for system and passenger optimization prior to expanding the line. Right now, agreements for 10 km are the longest official agreements in place for any hyperloop system," Ben Cooke, HTT's director of media relations, explained to CNN Travel.

"We will be able to achieve new speed records at this distance; at a comfortable 1g acceleration we will get up to 671 miles (or 1,079 kilometers) per hour," said Cooke.

HTT has also signed hyperloop agreements with Abu Dhabi and Ukraine earlier in 2018. Its first track -- in Toulouse, France -- has begun construction in April 2018. The first phrase will include a 320-meter system.

Tongren's mountainous topography will be challenging

Even before the signing, Tongren has been under the international spotlight of late. Tongren's Fanjingshan, one of the five sacred Buddhist mountains in China, was inscribed as one of the latest UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2018.

Known for its unusual mountainous landscape and vast karst topography, Tongren will serve as a good testing ground for HTT to refine their construction method and technology.

"It will be challenging, but it is quite doable with existing technology," said Cooke.

Guizhou, one of China's fastest-growing provinces, has been splurging more than $100 billion on infrastructure upgrades in the last few years. It has become the home for many Chinese and international tech companies, such as Apple, Alibaba and Amazon.

A more concrete timeline, plus destinations served, will be determined in the next few months, following the initial study. Connecting Tongren city with Guiyang, the provincial capital of Guizhou some 400 kilometers away, is one of the routes considered.

It'll shorten the current journey from a one-hour flight or five-hour drive to a mere 20 minutes.

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