The EuroTube foundation, a Swiss non-profit research organisation for the development of vacuum transport technology, will launch two test tracks to apply hyperloop technology to the transportation of goods via rail. The two test tracks are named DemoTube and AlphaTube and will be located in Dubendorf and Collombey-Murazboth, Switzerland.
When it comes to rail freight, the DemoTube and AlphaTube will be suitable for tests on freight vehicles that transport pallets, as Giacomo Pareschi, sustainable transport engineer at EuroTube told RailFreight.com. The AlphaTube project will also include tests concerning loading and unloading cargo and mechanisms for the safe transport of goods.
What’s in it for rail freight?
AlphaTube will inquire on how to adapt the acceleration and hooking technologies for freight vehicles, which are usually heavier than passengers. Pareschi specifies some of the challenges that lie ahead. “As for every other multimodal transport system, ensuring efficient loading and unloading procedures is essential to make this technology attractive,” they said.
Another main challenge of hyperloop is that vehicles have to switch from a pressurised environment to a vacuum. One of the ideas brought up by Pareschi would be telescopic boarding piers. These piers would link the back of the vehicles with the pressurised environment, enabling the process of loading the vehicle without it leaving the tube.
Another important challenge is to incorporate the transport of TEUs and FEUs in hyperloop. EuroTube thinks that one of the solutions would be tubes with a larger diameter, 4,4 metres, which could host vehicles suitable for such containers. Since freight wagons are heavier and more voluminous, the infrastructure would need to be designed to meet these requirements.
The DemoTube prototype will be inaugurated in 2024 and it will be in Dubendorf, 10 kilometres east of Zurich. The test track will be 120 metres long and it will be equipped with the GammaShellPipe. The GammaShellPipe is a airtight tube made of reinforced concrete with a diameter of 2,2 metres, which should be ready for next year.
DemoTube will be used to test all the new hyperloop technology at one single location. Pareschi added that the focus will be on building and installing airtight tubes and airlocks for environments with different pressures. Moreover, there will be tests on vacuum pumps, safety mechanisms, and electromagnetic acceleration.
The AlphaTube will be longer than its sister in Dubendorf, reaching 3,1 kilometres in length. The test track will be located in the west of the country, in Collombey-Muraz, near the border with France. There is no date for the launch of AlphaTube yet. Pareschi said that assembling the track should take roughly two years. However, the process cannot start until the building permit is granted. The association is currently taking care of bureaucratic procedures to unlock the permit.
AlphaTube will be somewhat of an extended version of DemoTube since the tubes will have the same diameter. This track will be used to test high-speed vehicles, up to 900 km/h. The length of the track was in fact calculated to allow for the safe acceleration and braking of the vehicles.