Hyperloop CEO Dirk Ahlborn today suggested that there are better alternatives to the UK’s second multi-billion pound high speed rail project, HS2.
The German entrepreneur heading up Elon Musk’s vision of a supersonic overground tube said there are “faster and cheaper ways” of doing the £43 billion HS2 project.
"The rail industry is a dinosaur industry," he said. "Nothing really has happened for the last 100 years."
While Ahlborn was quick to criticise the UK's rail plans, he said he expects to see Hyperloop in Europe as soon as certain legislation issues are overcome.
“Europe of course is on the list…we had some enquiries in Europe,” he said at Pioneers Festival in Vienna today. “Legislative burdens are there so I personally see the first [Hyperloops outside the US] more in the Middle East and Asia where we have contacts.”
Hyperloop's first challenge is to cut the 380-mile journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco down to half an hour.
The near-supersonic service would use magnets and fans to fire passenger-carrying capsules floating on a cushion of air through pressurised tubes sat on top of pylons.
Critics argue that connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco with Hyperloop could cost up to $100 billion but the company believes it can done for $16 billion. There are also concerns around the safety of the transportation method, particularly in California, which is prone to earthquakes.
Despite the concerns, Ahlborn said the company plans to raise much of the capital needed for Hyperloop through an initial public offering (IPO) later this year, adding that the company will start building the network next year. The California route could be finished as early as 2018, Ahlborn said.
Rod Smith, a professor of engineering at Imperial College London, told Techworld that it's unlikely to take off.
“It’s not based on strong engineering principals,” said Smith in an earlier interview. “I’d go as far as to call it fantasy.”
There are up to 350 professionals working on the Hyperloop project now, including several from distinguished organisations like Nasa, SpaceX, Boeing, Stanford and Harvard.
Ahlborn is trying to entice professionals to get involved by offering them stock in the company.
"People work in exchange for stock options," he said. "They'll probably be millionaires when they’re done."