India Just Might Be Getting a Hyperloop

California may have produced the horrorshow traffic that prompted Elon Musk to pitch the hyperloop, but it’s hardly the only place eager to ditch cars for levitating pods hurtling through tubes at speeds approaching the sound barrier. India wants in, too.

Today, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of the companies formed to realize Musk’s vision of tube travel, announced it has signed a deal with the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southeast India.

Working with the state’s economic development board, HTT will spend six months studying possible routes for a hyperloop connecting the cities of Vijaywada and Amaravati—a move that would transform a 27-mile, hour-long drive into a six-minute whoosh. And then, over an undisclosed period of time, the Los Angeles-based company says it will build the thing.

The India deal is just the latest for HTT, which also plans to build networks of tubes in South Korea, Slovakia, and Abu Dhabi. But to make all—or any—of that happen, the company’s 800 engineers (most of whom have day jobs and work on this in their spare time, in exchange for stock options) must first master the practical aspects of the hyperloop. That means building and maintaining a near-vacuum state across miles of tubes, propelling levitating pods through them, getting people or cargo into and out of those pods, and much more.

The company has not publicly demonstrated a working system, but CEO Dirk Ahlborn is confident. “We are ready to build,” he told WIRED in June. “Technology is not an issue.”

That seems good enough for the folks running Andhra Pradesh. “In order to boost its image and emerge as the frontier city in future technology, Amaravati is looking forward to collaborating with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies,” Krishna Kishore, CEO of the state’s economic development board, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, HTT’s rivals are pushing ahead, too. Hyperloop One, the mainstream favorite to deliver the transportation transformation, recently fired its 28-foot pod through a test tube at nearly 200 mph. Musk himself has decided to build his own hyperloop, and is testing his own design.

But making the hyperloop work isn’t the real challenge here; the physics are quite straightforward. Even regulation may not be the toughest hurdle, as the companies can cherry pick routes where local powers are keen to host the future of travel. The real difficulty lies in making a transportation system that can compete on price and practicality with established airlines, train companies, and private cars.

However that clash pans out, the Indian front is now part of the battlefield.


Southeastern railroads brace for Irma

Railroads serving Florida and the Southeast coastal region are making preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma, which is forecast to make landfall along South Florida and move up the East Coast.

The Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday declared an “emergency event” for all freight railroad operations. Acting FRA Administrator Heath Hall called the storm “extremely dangerous” and advised “preparations be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area.” The state of Florida declared a pre-emptive state of emergency for all 67 counties. Hall activated the FRA’s Emergency Relief Docket granting waivers for certain FRA regulations during and after the storm. Also, the Surface Transportation Board postponed the Sept. 12 public listening session, regarding CSX service issues.

Norfolk Southern in a service announcement said traffic en route to the region will be held at various yards throughout its system in an effort to alleviate congestion in the affected regions. The railroad is in the process of issuing embargoes for these locations. Its Engineering unit is staging resources, including ballast trains, equipment, and generators, and will begin storm recovery efforts once it is safe to do so.

“Norfolk Southern will be working with customers in these areas to identify switching needs and service curtailment. Customers with questions regarding local service should contact their Operations and Service Support, Unit Train, Automotive, or Intermodal representative,” it said.

CSX said it is taking precautionary measures to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure while it monitors the storm. “All necessary actions will be taken as conditions warrant, including relocation of personnel, and rerouting rail cars and locomotives out of areas in the projected path of the hurricane. Customers with freight moving through impacted areas will be advised of any potential delays.”

Amtrak has temporarily suspended services in Florida. The Miami-New York Silver Star (92) and Silver Meteor (98) are cancelled for Sept. 9-11. Silver Star 91 (New York-Miami) will operate from New York City to Orlando on Sept. 7. Silver Meteor 97 (New York City-Miami) will operate from New York to Jacksonville, Fla. Trains 91 and 97 are cancelled for Sept. 8-10.

Auto Train 53 (Lorton, Va.-Sanford, Fla.) is cancelled for Sept. 9. Auto Train 52 (Sanford-Lorton) is cancelled on Sept. 10-11. No alternate transportation will be provided.

Florida-based FEC Railway continues to monitor the path of the hurricane. On Sept. 7 the railroad will operate southbound mainline train 101, and northbound 202 and 222. Local service changes will be communicated individually to the affected customers. On Sept. 8 local and mainline service is suspended.

Commuter operator Tri-Rail, which operates from Miami north to Mangonia Park, will suspend all services as of Sept. 8 until further notice.

Railway Age

The devastating 1935 hurricane that surprised the Florida Keys

It was Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1935, when the nation’s first-recorded Category 5 hurricane struck the Florida Keys. The winds: between 200 and 250 miles per hour. The storm surge: 15 feet high. Thirty miles of a railroad track connecting a portion of the archipelago was decimated. Hundreds died, including more than 200 World War I veterans working on an overseas highway linking the Keys.

When survivors and rescue workers surveyed the damage, they were horrified by what they saw: people buried or partially entombed in muck and mangroves, bodies dangling off trees. One family reportedly lost 50 members.

With Irma headed toward South Florida, officials in the Keys — a series of islands set off the southern coast — have ordered mandatory evacuations. Hotels are shutting down, the airport was expected to halt operations, and residents and tourists began their trek along the single highway back to the mainland.

But the fear in the Keys isn’t just a matter of geography: Back in the late summer of 1935, when the country’s weather forecasters didn’t have satellite technology, some residents and government officials in the Keys were taken by surprise by the viciousness of the hurricane. It has haunted residents ever since.