Institutions sign deal to develop ultrafast train

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Institutions sign deal to develop ultrafast train

The days of traveling from Seoul to Busan, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) away, in less than 30 minutes are imminent should the government’s new plan to build an innovative transport system materialize.

Korea Railroad Research Institute said Tuesday that it has signed a deal with seven research institutions to develop the Korean hyperloop train, or Hyper Tube Express, HTX, a transportation system that travels 1,000 kilometers per hour (621 miles per hour) by shooting a pod through near-vacuumed tubes. This means travel from Seoul to Busan would take about 20 minutes. The trip is currently a little less than three hours on the Korea Express Train, more popularly known as the KTX.

Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute and Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) are among those that signed the agreement.

The railroad research institution said it will test core technologies of the system such as electromagnetic technology in the lab while developing a blueprint for general infrastructure such as tubes. The KRRI will oversee the system engineering for three years. KRRI had already committed 24 billion won for nine years as a project endorsed by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

UNIST, which held a symposium in July dedicated to developing the technology, said in a report, “The idea for Hyperloop, the new high-speed ground transportation system by which commuters shoot between cities at speeds of up to 760mph (1200 km/h), was initially dreamed up by Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame. Meaning that these futuristic capsules would be zipping along at almost 500 mph (800 km/h) - faster than most commercial airliners and four times faster than the KTX.”

SpaceX, an aerospace transport service company started by Musk, outlined a route connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco a few years ago to spark interest in high-speed travel through tubes. Since then, efforts to make the concept a reality are growing worldwide.

In November, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates signed a deal with Hyperloop One, a company based in Los Angeles to see whether it is possible to build the futuristic transportation system linking the city and Abu Dhabi. A system could slash the travel time between the cities to 12 minutes, down from the current hour and 20 minutes.

However, even if the technology is developed to where it can be used as a pragmatic means of transportation, some say it will take time until it can be commercialized in Korea. “They will have to coordinate something with airliners and railway companies, who are essentially competitors, that will suffer if the new system is developed,” said an industry insider. “Also, building infrastructure may face objections from civic groups and citizens.” Recently during construction of a new railroad connecting Gangwon Province and Seoul via KTX for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, an overpass collapsed, prompting local residents to protest the construction.

Some even asked whether such a system is necessary in a nation that is already well connected and whether it’s worth the resources.


BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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