Brno looking into hyperloop link to Prague

New but untested technology would reduce the trip to just minutes

In the future, it may just take a few minutes to go from Prague to Brno using a hyperloop that allows travel at the speed of sound. The South Moravian capital, which has become a high-tech center in recent years, has begun looking into the project.

The concept of a hyperloop was introduced by entrepreneur Elon Musk three years ago, but so far it just remains an idea. Musk, estimated to be the 83rd richest person in the world, is behind aerospace firm SpaceX as well as electric car company Tesla Motors and electricity provider SolarCity, and other projects.

Brno City Hall is in talks with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a US-based research company that is developing the hyperloop concept. Musk is not directly involved with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

The hyperloop uses a pressurized capsule that travels in a low pressure tube at some 1,200 to 1,300 kilometers per hour. The distance from Prague to Brno is 200 kilometers, so the trip in theory could take 10 to 15 minutes. The travel is faster than going by plane or high-speed train.

The capsules are propelled by linear induction motors and air compressors, and the overall concept is distantly related to pneumatic tube technology.

“The Hyperloop is a completely self-sufficient system that relies on renewable energy, among others, to produce enough energy to power the system in its entirety,” Hyperloop Transportation Technologies says on its website. “The Hyperloop enables construction and operation costs that are significantly lower than any other mass transport system. Thanks to the pylons, it can be built over land already in use for public transportation, such as in the medians of freeways minimizing footprint.”

The low construction and operation costs translate into cheaper tickets for passengers, the company claims.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies in March announced it was in talks with the Slovak government and was planning to create a line from Hungary to Austria. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has also reached an agreement with Germany's Deutsche Bahn.

The route from Vienna to Bratislava to Budapest would cost some $200 million to $300 million to build, but transportation may be free as it is expected to generate more electricity than it consumes. Some 10 million people could use it annually.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies met last week with Brno representatives to explore options. Brno Deputy Mayor Jaroslav Kacer (TOP 09), in charge of the Smart City concept, initiated the talks, as plans for a high-speed rail line between Brno and Prague have long been delayed and may not be realized for decades to come.

“Our connections to key cities are extremely slow. We must do everything possible to accelerate the travel times,” Kacer said, adding that further meetings with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are planned for September.

“There are proven technologies for high-speed lines, but the state is not building them. We therefore welcome this research project for even faster travel,” Kacer said, according to media reports.

Prague so far has not been involved in the discussions, which are in an early stage. It is too early to give any construction date or cost estimate.

Prague Deputy Mayor Matej Stropnický (SZ) said that a high-speed link between Prague and Brno is a priority and part of the city's development plan, but a hyperloop has yet to be discussed, and the main question would be one of finance.

Czech Transport Ministry spokesman Tomáš Neřold said that technology was interesting but still untested. “It is long way from being put into practice, and until then it can't realistically be counted on in transportation plans,” he said.

He said that the Ministry is counting on high-speed rail to shorten the travel time between Prague and Brno to 60 minutes from the current two and a half hours. A feasibility study will be completed this year and construction should begin in 2030 and take a decade to complete.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to build a prototype hyperloop system in Quay Valley, CA.

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