Spotting loopholes

Futuristic transportation

Spotting loopholes

It is said that there is only a thin line between total fantasy and a futuristic design. The proposed Hyperloop is one such plan that, if implemented, will take us one step closer to a science-fiction world where nothing will be impossible.

     The new-age transportation system involves sending magnetically levitated pods through low-pressure tubes at very high speeds, carrying goods or people. Los Angeles-based company Hyperloop One has opened a vote on five potential routes in India. One of these is between Bengaluru and Chennai, with an estimated travel time of 20 minutes.

It seems too good to be true at first glance. But not everyone is impressed and many Bengalureans feel that the government will do better to concentrate its efforts and energy on worthwhile projects. “There are a lot of environmental concerns in the case of an ambitious project like this,” says Roshan Sylvester, a lecturer. “When something as simple as a hypertension wire can wreak so much havoc, imagine the consequences of something like this. And why would I want to reach Chennai in 20 minutes anyway? Who would be in such a rush?” he says.

Detailing the human cost of developing Hyperloop, Roshan goes on to add, “Increased private participation in the public sphere is always scary, especially in a diverse country like India. This could mean large scale invasion of public spaces by corporations. Ultimately, people who have nothing to do with this transportation system will suffer the most. Sure, there will be many who tout the benefits of this in terms of employment generation but we need to see the overall cost of it too, ecologically and otherwise.”

“There are many other issues that the government can focus on,” says Rackel Sophia, a high school coordinator. “True, it will help save time but a technology-based travel system is not a necessity or a requirement right now. Why can’t the government focus on developing air transport options, if faster travel is a pressing issue?”

Says Hemalatha Rajgopal, a research fellow, “It is a fascinating idea but I am a little skeptical about its implementation. Considering the amount of time regular projects like the Metro or even a simple flyover construction take in our country, I am a little pessimistic about how this will unfold. If it does though, I think it’s the need of the hour right now as so much time will be saved. And I would personally be pretty enthusiastic to travel in one.”

The long gestation period of such a project and the extremely high probability of such a contentious proposal getting caught in bureaucratic red tape, something the country is notorious for, is what worries Kritika Singh, a software developer. “The land acquisition required will most likely hit legal and ethical hurdles. Already a large number of projects are stuck due to this issue.”

Though the company vouches that Hyperloop is on-demand, energy-efficient and safe, there is still a bit of scepticism. “Frankly, it seems unrealistic. After all, Hyperloops are still in their infancy and haven’t been tried yet anywhere in the world,” says Kritika. “They should think about improving the abysmal traffic conditions within the city. Traffic jams and gridlocks are the new norm here. What is the point in reaching Chennai in 20 minutes if it takes me two hours to reach Whitefield?” she questions.

Others also have similar wishlists. While Roshan wants the authorities to concentrate on building more public toilets for women and subsidising education of girls, Rackel feels the money proposed to be spent on the Hyperloop can be utilised for helping farmers or enhancing medical facilities. “There should be an emphasis on the internal aspects instead of just superficial development,” she says.

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