Amtrak CEO downplays potential of hyperloop

Skepticism over hyperloop technology has been expressed by Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson. Business Insider quoted Anderson as saying that the technology is not “realistic right now.”

Hyperloop is a technological brainchild of Elon Musk, who claims to have gained approval to develop the system in the Northeast, including Philadelphia, although officials there say no such approval has been granted.  

Anderson’s focus is on improving existing systems that “need some real infrastructure investment.” He is not alone in his skepticism about hyperloop. It was a view shared by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Quin O’Callaghan, who said hyperloop is just “one step away from being a teleporter.”

O’Callaghan argues that the government should do more to reduce the cost of Amtrak tickets. Amtrak receives government subsidies, which have come under fire as many conservatives wish to privatize the railroad.

Anderson defended the practice on CNBC. “If you look at transportation in the United States, it’s all subsidized,” Anderson, who was a former top executive with Delta Airlines, said. “I’m probably too much of an old-school industrialist. I tend to look at things like cash flow, return on invested capital, and operating margins.”

The hyperloop technology was conceived from a white paper that Musk proposed in 2013. Come 2017, Musk’s intentions have shifted commercially. He saw this technology as an opportunity to improve transportation by making it faster and more convenient to move people around major cities in the United States. The carrot that got the media talking was how this mode of transportation can ship goods and services, apart from commuters, from New York to DC in just half an hour.

The new venture was officially launched by Musk’s The Boring Company. It aims to have a network of tunnels developed for the sake of having a transportation service that can rival most railroad systems.

The pods that The Boring Company’s underground tunnels would transport have the capability of transporting even cars. This has given rise to speculation about the weight capacity of these pods to ship heavier cargo. This would get businesses thinking about faster business operations and shorter delivery times.

Start-ups banking on the hyperloop hype have emerged to have their own versions of the pod-based transportation technology. Freight Waves already reported on Hyperloop One’s success in a test track when it attempted to hit 200 miles per hour in their Las Vegas-based facility in Nevada.

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