BTS Hyperloop Challenge

Elon Musk has promoted the concept of Hyperloop in tunnels but considers this viable only if the cost of tunnelling can be reduced by a factor of ten or more. His suggestion is that this could be achieved by halving the diameter, doubling the power of the TBM, using a continuous excavation and lining process, by taking benefit from investment in R&D in tunnelling, and by economies of scale.

The British Tunnelling Society (BTS) is undertaking a project to use its unparalleled expert knowledge to examine the practical challenges and advantages of building tunnels for Hyperloop. The project is part-funded by the Institution of Civil Engineers Enabling Fund, with the research work and reporting being carried out by London Bridge Associates (LBA).

The BTS Hyperloop Challenge project will look at the technical implications, and advantages, of tunnels for Hyperloop.  It will also look at the key cost drivers of tunnelling and the feasibility of Musk’s proposals for cost reduction. In addition, the BTS will look at what innovations and research are in progress that may help in achieving technical feasibility and the sought-after cost reductions.

The Hyperloop Challenge project will comprise the production of a preliminary report which will be used to brief the attendees at an industry-wide workshop to be held at the Institution of Civil Engineers’ headquarters in Great George Street, London. The output from the workshop will be integrated with the preliminary research to produce the final report, for publication in autumn 2019.

Bill Grose, BTS's Project Director, said These are challenging questions to answer, but ones that we feel require considered thought by subject matter experts. We will consult widely within and outside the tunnelling community; we already know that there is considerable enthusiasm to participate.

Simon Morgan, LBA's Managing Director, is personally leading the work on the project. Simon said: We are thrilled to be a part of this project and have the opportunity to bring together industry knowledge and experience to show how the tunnelling industry can take a leading part in the implementation of Hyperloop and maximise the benefits of the underground environment.

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