INTERNATIONAL - Sir Richard Branson has come up with a novel way of solving London's runway expansion dilemma - with a system of super fast 'hyperloops' linking passengers between the capital's airports.
Underground tubes carrying passenger pods at speeds of 700mph may sound like a pipe dream, but the billionaire has faith in the hyperloop, describing it as the 'world's most revolutionary train service'.
Virgin Hyperloop One, a California start-up chaired by Sir Richard, has been exploring the possibility of a series of high-speed tubes between Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It has claimed it could transform London's three airports into one 'hub', as it could ferry passengers between them in just five minutes.
This new form of transport would propel pods through a near-vacuum tube, reaching speeds of up to 670mph. Passengers would be loaded into the pod before accelerating via electromagnetic propulsion through the tube - which can be built above or below ground.
The pod lifts above the track and glides as fast as a plane with minimal drag. Rob Lloyd, Virgin Hyperloop One's chief executive, said the ambitious plans could remove the need for a third runway at Heathrow. Mr Lloyd told the Telegraph: '[We're] thinking about how technology could make it a much different proposition than the third runway. You'd think of this as moving between terminals instead of moving between airports."
Entrepreneur Elon Musk - former PayPal boss and founder of electric car firm Tesla - came up with the concept, launching a contest to develop the technology in 2015.
Sir Richard is spearheading a £65million investment in the firm, which has built a hyperloop testing tube and pod near Las Vegas.
With speeds of up to 670mph, the billionaire has claimed it could connect London and Birmingham in 14 minutes, and London and Edinburgh in 50 minutes. By comparison, a Virgin West Coast train has a top speed of 125mph, while the new HS2 trains will hit 250mph as it connects London and Edinburgh in three-and-a-half hours. The hyperloop would also be quicker than a flight between London and Edinburgh, which takes one hour and 10 minutes.
However the plans are still in the very early stages. The only successful tests of the technology so far have been unmanned trials on Virgin Hyperloop One's 500-metre track in the Nevada desert, which have reached a maximum speed of 240mph. In December, a paper published by the Department for Transport said a hyperloop in the UK would be 'at least two decades away'.
They claim the 'topology of the UK, its dense population and intensive land use' will delay the roll-out of hyperloop in Britain.
- DAILY MAIL