A Dutch group chasing technology luminary Elon Musk's vision of near-supersonic "Hyperloop" rail transport unveiled Europe's first test facility Thursday, aiming to start constructing a system within four years.
Hardt, a company which grew from a group of technology students who won a competition set by Tesla founder and SpaceX head Musk earlier this year, unveiled their 30-metre (98-foot) test facility at the Delft University of Technology campus.
Hyperloop is a system that propels a capsule or pod magnetically through a near-vacuum tube at almost the speed of sound -- and its inventors say it may one day compete on the same footing as air travel.
"A Hyperloop network across Europe would mean that people could travel across an entire continent with the same ease that underground train travel currently offers in big cities," Hardt's chief executive Tim Houter said.
The Hyperloop would also not make intermediate stops between two destinations, he told AFP.
"We are creating a world where distance no longer matters," he said.
The test facility is the first in a series of plans to eventually build a Hyperloop system.
Low-speed tests will be followed by high-speed tests and the TU Delft facility will also study aspects such as cornering and changing lanes within the vacuum at top speed.
"When all the technologies have been proven, the building of a route between two cities to transport people and goods can begin," Houter said.
Asked whether Hardt had two specific cities in mind, Houter said "we still have to do some research" including about distances and which cities would require such a high-speed service.
He did not exclude that it could run between Amsterdam and Paris, currently serviced by planes, and high-speed trains that travel up to 300 kilometres (187 miles) an hour.
"Once the first Hyperloop route is in place, other routes will quickly follow until they're all over the entire Europe," Houter said.
But the Hyperloop still has to overcome some challenges including acceptance as a safe mode of transportation, Houter said.
"But it's just like when airplanes first came out -- some people then found flying a bit scary too," he said.
Houter captained a TU Delft team that won Musk's Space X Hyperloop Pod Competition in January for the best designed and built pod to be used in a Hyperloop tube.
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