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Swiss student proposes underwater train in Lake Geneva to link cities of Geneva and Lausanne

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Swiss student proposes underwater train in Lake Geneva to link cities of Geneva and Lausanne
A sketch showing how Swiss student Notari's subaquatic train would look. Photo: ©2018 EPFL/Elia Notari.
10:16 CEST+02:00
Inspired by Elon Musk's Hyperloop project, a Swiss engineering Master's student has designed a subaquatic train that would travel at 500 kilometres an hour and would link Lausanne and Geneva in ten minutes.

The train would levitate on magnets, allowing it to spin in a partial vacuum and travel at speeds of up to 500 km/h. The submerged bridge on which it would travel would be 15 metres wide in diameter and be placed on concrete pillars 30 metres below the surface of the water. 

"I designed my project so that the structure can even withstand severe flooding," Elia Notari, a Master's student at the Civil Engineering Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), told Swiss news portal 20 Minutes. 

"It's technically doable," Aurelio Muttoni, Notari's professor told the same outlet. 

"The engineer’s tunnel measures 14.5 meters in diameter and is designed to withstand earthquakes, internal and external explosions, flooding, tsunamis and landslides," states a press release by the student's faculty at research institute EPFL.

The design was inspired by the scrapped Swissmetro project in the early 2000s, which had envisioned a similar high-speed link between the two major Swiss cities, albeit underground, not under water. 

But Notari drew on recent policy guidelines for the technology from Germany, although the technology he proposes is being developed in Japan.

"This kind of system is not yet used in transportation, but several countries are now testing prototypes and plan to start building soon. In 2015, the Shinkansen Maglev prototype developed by Japanese company JR Central set the world record when it reached a speed of 603 km/h," states EPFL's communiqué about its MA student's proposal. 

Another professor, Marcel Jufer of the EPFL, called the project "an excellent civil engineering project," but added that the tunnel would need to be compartmentalized to block leaks. Security, for example contingency plans as to how to evacuate passengers, would also need to be studied further, according to the report in 20 Minutes. 

Notari insisted that his project was feasible and not "utopian," a theory confirmed by Jufer, who says in engineering terms the project appears tangible. But the cost could not be justified on such a route, added that professor. 

"It's too expensive, impossible to be profitable on a line like Lausanne-Geneva," said Jufer. 

For now, it seems, Lake Geneva is unlikely to get its own version of the Hyperloop, even if similar projects have been studied in Germany, Norway and Japan. 

Hyperloop One, a project by Virgin, FS Links and KPMG, is confident it can build a 28-minute service to link the Swedish capital of Stockholm and the Finnish capital Helsinki, via the Aland Islands. 

The Hyperloop train, which would carry passengers in a pod in a tube free of air resistance or friction at speeds of up to 800 kilometres an hour, is the brainchild of Elon Musk.

Routes have also been studied to link the Czech cities of Prague and Brno, while a transAmerican line is the ultimate goal. The United Arab Emirates is also planning to build a Hyperloop for cargo. 

EPFLoop's team in California. Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP.

A Swiss proposal by a team from Lausanne's EPFL (EPFLoop) to build a Hyperloop train recently came third in the Hyperloop Pod Competition in California launched by Elon Musk to find partners for the Hyperloop projects. EPFLoop successfully travelled at 85-kilometres an hour in a 1.5-kilometre tube to take a podium position in SpaceX's competition. 

 

 

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