Is Slovakia's hyperloop dream over?

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is working on projects in the Czech Republic and China.

(Source: SITA/AP)

Plans to build Hyperloop, a tube-based travelling system between Bratislava and Vienna, shortening the journey time from an hour to eight minutes, revealed back in 2016, raised a wave of excitement in Slovakia. Now, two years later, it seems that the plans are over as the Slovak side failed to find suitable land for the project, the Hospodárske Noviny daily reported.

Representatives of the Slovak Economy Ministry and US company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) signed a memorandum of cooperation in early March of 2016. At that time, the CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Dirk Ahlborn was speaking about the year 2020 and the Slovak cabinet did not hide its optimism either. The Economy Ministry counted on a feasibility study as well as construction of a testing route. It should have been 5-50 km long with levitating capsules on electromagnets propelled by solar energy while driving at the speed of 1,200 km per hour.

Read also:Hyperloop investors eye Slovakia

However, the memorandum with the US company expired after eight months and the project has been halted, the Denník N daily reported. The Office of the Deputy PM for Investment and Informatisation of Richard Raši has confirmed this.

“The Office of the Deputy PM failed to find a suitable plot for the project,” Raši’s team explained for Denník N. “Hyperloop Transportation Technologies changed its investment plans several times and subsequently, its requirements on cooperation with the Slovak side. As of now, the cooperation is not continuing.”

The US company confirmed in the past that a logical step in the place of construction would be locating a development centre and testing centre here. But the Slovak Cabinet’s Office only has visualisations and the Slovak side has been doubting the feasibility of the project itself.

Revolutionary system in Slovakia

The original agreement was that the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies would scrutinise possibilities to build the revolutionary system in Slovakia. It put among planned routes a connection between Bratislava and Vienna and later Budapest. It is 160 km away from the Slovak capital.

Ahlborn considered Slovakia to be a technological leader and this is why he chose Slovakia for his project, according to the theverge.com website.

Now he claims that Slovakia is still on the Hyperloop’s map recalling that HTT has already agreed with the Czech Republic.

“During the time being we are working on the feasibility study with the Czech side, which also includes Slovakia,” said Ahlbron, as cited by Denník N. The plan is to connect Bratislava, Brno and Prague.

HTT is just building a research centre in Toulouse, France, while the first capsules should be ready allegedly in September while it has signed the first commercial agreement with Abu Dhabi as well as China. HTT is also working on a plan to build a commercial Hyperloop line in Ukraine.

Out of the big plans, only an office has remained in Bratislava. Reporters of Denník N visited it and found five to six engineers working on the capsule there.

The chinadaily.com website confirmed on August 13 that Hyperloop Transportation Technologies signed a deal with the state-owned Chinese Tongren Transport, Tourism and Investment Group one month ago, to build a superfast track in Tongren, Guizhou province.

The route will cover an initial distance of 10 kilometres from the city to Tongren Fenghuang Airport, with an estimated investment of 2 billion yuan (€255 million). During the second phase, the project will extend 50 km from the city to Mount Fanjing in Tongren. The investment in time will add up to more than 10 billion yuan. Each company should share one half of the costs, wrote the daily.

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