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Will the Paris to Marseille train really take just 40 minutes in the future?

Ambitious claims are being made for the ultra high speed Hyperloop trains, currently being tested in France, but what does it mean?

Will the Paris to Marseille train really take just 40 minutes in the future?
Hyperloop CEO and manager demonstrate the train capsule. Photo: AFP

What is it?

The Hyperloop is basically a super-fast train enclosed in vacuum tube to avoid friction and it 'floats' a couple of centimetres above the ground thanks to an electromagnetic field.

It was actually first outlined in the works of French science fiction author Jules Verne, although a bit of extra work has been done on the idea since then.

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The developers say it will reach speeds of 700mph or 1,126km/h. At those speeds the 774km journey from Paris to Marseille would take about 40 minutes, while the trip from the capital to Toulouse would take under half an hour.

Is it really being developed?

Yes, American billionaire eccentric Elon Musk is developing it at his company, but there are also numerous other companies and universities researching the technology including a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which is based in the USA but has a development office in Toulouse.

A 320 metre long test track has been built in Toulouse to start development of the trains.

“Toulouse is the heart of Europe's aerospace industry so it is only natural that we have a presence there amongst many of our partners and peers,” said HTT Chairman Bibop Gresta when the office opened. “We are grateful to the community of Toulouse for welcoming us with open arms.”

“Our close relationship with the local government is exactly what is needed to implement Hyperloop systems in Europe,” added HTT COO Andres De Leon. “While developing our technology we will also work together to create the necessary regulatory framework for the system.”

And in other parts of the globe things are progressing even faster – a 10km track is planned for between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in 2020 as part of the Universal Exposition and at a competition in the USA last week dozens of teams showed how far they had got with the technology.

So where can I buy a ticket?

Calm down, there are a few small problems to iron out first.

Firstly there is the cost, as governments would only start building the infrastructure if costs could be kept to around €20 million per kilometre (slightly more than a conventional railway). Then there's the environmental aspect of it, as maintaining the vacuum and the electromagnetic field would use a lot of energy.

Then of course the whole thing would require extensive safety testing before the public were allowed anywhere near it.

Member comments

  1. Provided “eccentric” Musk can keep his hands off the independent companies work, maybe it’ll see the light of day. His Tesla brand … the cars are great but the company behind them is SO bad at communications and service the car has become a liability.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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