Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be first. Take railways for example. Had Richard Trevithick not invented the first steam locomotive (in 1804) the UK wouldn’t have been the first country to have a national railway system.
And although we’re big fans of the UK’s railways (when they work) we couldn’t help but be slightly envious of the South Koreans as their government has just announced plans to build a train that will travel at the speed of sound.
(Don’t worry, we had to re-read the article too).
The speed of sound is calculated at 767mph, which is pretty fast in any language (not just Korean) but the Seoul government is confident that it can have the new, ultra high speed train up and running ‘in the not too distant future’.
The technology they’re planning to use is based on a ‘low pressure tube’, which is believed to be even faster than the magnetic levitation system which the world’s fastest trains currently use. Trains using this technology currently – only – reach speeds of 268mph so a snail’s pace in comparison.
The scientific term for this low pressure tube is Hyperloop and a number of countries are taking a close look at it, most notably United States, Canada and China. Given the size of those countries, it’s easy to see why they would show an interest but earlier this month Dubai officials announced that they were studying the technology too and so build a line linking it to Abu Dhabi.
The Mail Online claims that ‘there are also hopes that the technology can be brought to Britain, with London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool among cities earmarked for the ultra fast links’. Clearly, we won’t hold our breathe just yet as getting trains to go faster than walking pace seems to be a tall order in the UK, especially when there are ‘leaves on the line’.
The distance from London to Edinburgh is estimated to be 666 miles so the journey using one of these new trains could be done in less than one hour. Of course, there’s then the further hour to be added for ‘platform congestion’ and another for ‘shortage of train crew’. Pretty soon you’ll be wishing you were on an InterCity 125.