The Netherlands explores hyperloop for its busiest freight corridor
A pilot route that would be the first step in creating a pan-European hyperloop network is being investigated in the largest urban area of The Netherlands, between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Numerous local governments, Schiphol Airport, and other companies, mainly in the sector of fresh produce – such as flowers, signed a covenant earlier this week to study the preconditions and effects of a hyperloop connection for cargo. The results are expected mid-2022.
The aim of the exploratory study is identifying challenges and providing solutions that similar urban areas are facing elsewhere in Europe, and hereby paving the way for investing in hyperloop infrastructure across the entire continent. Such a network would make it possible to send goods across Europe in hours rather than days, while a global network would cut transport times to just days.
The parties participating in this study are part of, or involved in The Netherlands’ largest export industries. The focus is on the busiest national freight corridor between the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam and other important hubs in the provinces of Noord- and Zuid-Holland. Connecting producers, traders, buyers and logistics nodes on this corridor with a hyperloop, offers the potential to drastically reduce transport with existing modalities and significantly increase the speed and reliability of delivery.
The futuristic hyperloop network would mean a large reduction in maintenance costs for existing infrastructure and would alleviate the congestion problem. Also, a significant improvement of the air quality in the heavily populated area could be achieved by reducing CO2 emissions. The latter would be a major step for the transport sector in achieving its ambitions towards achieving the climate agreement goals.
Walther Ploos van Amstel, economist and Lector City Logistics at the University of Applies Science of Amsterdam: “The hyperloop is a ’gamechanger’ for transport, like the container in the 60s of the last century. The competitiveness of regions is going to change. The Netherlands, as the logistics main port of Europe, must capitalise on it now.”
First commercial hyperloop
The active involvement of these parties is done under the banner of the Hyperloop Development Program (HDP), a public-private partnership for the development of hyperloop announced in late 2020. The HDP is financially backed by the Dutch national government and focusses on developing hyperloop as a new sustainable mode of transport, for both passengers and cargo.
Identifying and exploring the potential of the first cargo routes is first of its many activities. A cargo hyperloop system requires a smaller-scale infrastructure than the passenger system and soon undergoes tests at the European Hyperloop Center in the Dutch province of Groningen. After completion of these tests the system is ready for commercial operations.
A cargo-hyperloop can offer major advantages for the fresh produce industry, which accounts for a significant part of Dutch exports. “This collaboration is an important step in the development of this new modality for goods, with which we will be able to deliver faster and at higher capacity, at lower cost, says Rik Roeske, project leader of the cargo hyperloop.
“We can move goods at a speed that is very competitive with trucks, with more frequent and smaller shipments. Because the system operates autonomously and integrally, the capacity can be adjusted on-demand with platooning”. This does not only apply to Dutch industry, Roeske says. “Many other markets, such as e-commerce and pharma worldwide, also benefit from the hyperloop.”
Joint feasibility study
The study will touch upon topics such as product requirements, integration, socio-economic costs and benefits and operations and maintenance and the decision-making process for possible next steps and will be completed by mid-2022. The participating parties all bring in valuable experience, knowledge, and data, necessary to assess the feasibility of a hyperloop system for cargo.