Importing Moonshots

While Russia and the USA may not be on the best of terms, that doesn't mean that one can’t profit off the ideas of the other. Case in point: Right now, Russia is considering the implementation of a domestic version of Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept—a vacuum tube, high speed rail line that can transport people at 1200 km/h (760 mph).

According to local outlets, the news comes after statements made by the Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, which reveal progress by Russian scientists working to develop modes of ultra-fast transport.

Sokolov stated that, two years ago, he saw a prototype from St. Petersburg University of Transport and Communications. "We can say that the technological principle has already been implemented," Sokolov continued.

This comes at a time when US versions of the Hyperloop concept are finishing their first tests.

Initially discussed in 2013, the transport system would use a propulsion based on electromagnetism that could propel pods forward in vacuum-sealed steel tunnel at unprecedented speeds.

An artist's portrayal of the Hyperloop Alpha. Elon Musk


Domestic implementation of the Hyperloop in Russia will be a major infrastructure undertaking. It will involve constructing major roads, which will connect western Russia to the North, South, and East corners of the country, according to Anatolyi Zaitsev from the St. Petersburg State Transport University. The first step will be connecting Baltic Sea ports with cargo terminals in Moscow, adds Zaitsev.

One look at the size of Russia will make one realize the unbelievable expense of the undertaking. Just a Moscow-St. Petersburg line alone will be over 650 kms (400 miles).

So, an estimate of the cost of the project? Between $12 and $13 billion. Of course, this is less than the $21 billion estimate based on "western standards." 

But even then, investors are scarce, with only a few financial contributors on board so far, including Gordon Atlantic, the scheme is in its early stages.

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