Edinburgh to London journeys in 45 minutes came a step closer after the futuristic Hyperloop One transport system made its first successful test.
A trial vehicle reached 70mph at the company’s development track in the Nevada desert in the United States, it has announced.
The shape of a large tray with wheels, it was propelled along a vacuum tube using magnetic levitation.
Edinburgh University team HypED has reached the semi-final of a Hyperloop One competition to find the most feasible site for the first passenger-carrying system and expects to hear the results by the end of this month.
It has proposed to Hyperloop One a route between Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and London, using pods carrying 28 passengers.
The Hyperloop One test, which took place in May, involved the vehicle operating for just over five seconds.
It now plans to increase the speed to 250mph, with the system expected to carry passengers at 750mph.
BACKGROUND Nine proposed routes for Hyperloop One: http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/tech/scotland-in-running-for-futuristic-hyperloop-transport-link-1-4467462
Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One, said: “Hyperloop One has accomplished what no one has done before by successfully testing the first full scale Hyperloop system.
“By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube, as if you’re flying at 200,000 feet in the air.
“For the first time in over 100 years, a new mode of transportation has been introduced. Hyperloop is real, and it’s here now.”
Hyperloop One said the system’s components had been successfully tested, including its motor, suspension, magnetic levitation, electromagnetic braking and vacuum pumping system.
Nick Richardson and Jack Noble of HypED said: "It is extremely exciting, especially since we are in discussions with Hyperloop One, proposing an Edinburgh-London route in the semi-finals of their Global Challenge competition.
"Demonstrating a full-system test is a true milestone for the hyperloop vision as a whole, and means we are one step closer to hyperloop becoming a reality.
"The test has successfully proven major technical challenges including magnetic levitation and braking, propulsion, and the vacuum tube the hyperloop travels inside."
BACKGROUND Scottish students pitching hyperloop idea: http://www.scotsman.com/future-scotland/tech/hyperloop-transport-edinburgh-to-london-in-less-than-30-minutes-1-4013652
Hyperloop One has also unveiled a prototype of its 28-feet-long passenger-carrying pod, made of aluminium and carbon fibre.
Mr Pishevar said: “Hyperloop One will move people and things faster than at any other time in the world
“With Hyperloop One, the world will be cleaner, safer and faster.
“It’s going to make the world a lot more efficient and will impact the ways our cities work, where we live and where we work.
“We’ll be able to move between cities as if cities themselves are metro stops.”
However, some engineering and transport experts were sceptical about its feasibility and safety.
Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “This completion of the first trial from Hyperloop One must be very exciting for the team working on the project.
“However, as an engineer, there still seem to be some gaps in the information regarding the risks and safety of the system itself.
"There remains a challenge of cost, both in terms of design, production and maintainability, with figures initially quoted from the team already escalating.
“Building a sophisticated, evacuated tube system that is elevated on columns and aligned to a standard suitable for 700mph operation will definitely be a challenge.
“As the distance of the trials increase, there will be many engineering problems to solve including that of managing track alignment.
"Within the UK, we would not be able to use any existing transport corridors at these speeds due to their lateral curvature.
"In addition, travelling at those speeds means any fault in the system would mean everyone on board would die - just as you would at 60,000 metres if you were rapidly decompressed.
"The safety systems will be critical to this technology ever being viable."
Robert Noland, professor of transportation planning and policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: "Hyperloops are being designed with the hope of shooting people and cargo in pods through vacuum tubes at high speed.
"This concept was originally seen as a cheaper alternative to high speed rail in California.
"It is unlikely to be cheaper and is even less likely to be practical.
"Most of the costs of construction will be similar to any rail project, which includes right of way acquisition and station costs.
"For passenger transport, these have been criticised as essentially "barf" pods, given the high rates of acceleration involved.
"Cargo transport might seem like a better option, but where is the market for such high speed cargo transport?
"Maybe countries such as Dubai, with ample undeveloped land, are willing to invest in a technology such as this, and labour costs may make it more feasible, but in developed countries the costs will be prohibitive."
HypED is also in the final of a separate contest to design a passenger pod prototype.
The group will compete against 24 other groups in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition in California next month.