The British Tunnelling Society has announced the formation of a new group to bring together expert knowledge from within the association to examine the practical challenges and advantages of building tunnels for Hyperloop.
The BTS Hyperloop Challenge project will look at the technical implications, and advantages, of tunnels for Hyperloop, which uses electric propulsion of passenger or freight capsules through a low-pressure tube.
Hyperloop promoter Elon Musk supports the use of Hyperloop in tunnels but considers this viable only if the cost of tunnelling can be reduced by a factor of 10 or more. His suggestion is that this could be achieved by halving the diameter, doubling the power of the tunnel boring machine, using a continuous excavation and lining process, by taking benefit from investment in research and development in tunnelling, and by economies of scale
The BTS group will 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.
BTS project director Bill Grose 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.”
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 with the project led by managing director Simon Morgan.
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 at the Institution of Civil Engineers’ in London. The output from the workshop will be integrated with the preliminary research to produce the final report, for publication in autumn 2019.