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Does India need Hyperloop?

Why not?

India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. If we have to catch up to the developed nations in the next couple of decades, a massive amount of disruptive changes have to be administered. That would require huge amounts of investment in technology, processes, and infrastructure.

I was just on a trip to Goa a few weeks back with some close Quora friends of mine. One of them also had another friend of his, a Russian lady, come along. During the train journey, she commented how absurd it was that it took 10–12 hours for a 550 km journey.

And she had a point. Railways in countries like Russia and US clock average speeds of 120–150 kmph and upwards, whereas in India it is around 50% of the same. Japanese bullet trains are even faster.

In India, almost 1 crore people undertake long-distance train journeys every year. Even by the conservative estimate that the average duration of these journeys is around 12 hours, and adding another assumption that high-speed rails could cut it down by 50%, you save 6 crore person-hours every year (or 6500 person-years). And this does not even include intra-city journeys (which on a number basis, amount to 98% of all train travel).

Secondly, the biggest roadblock in India currently isn’t lack of prime real estate, but the concentration.

Mumbai is the Finance capital. Hyderabad and Bangalore are IT hubs. Chennai, Pune, Gurgaon are a mix of both. There are few upcoming cities like Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad etc, but that is the extent of it when it comes to concentration of high-end jobs.

The real-estate prices in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are through the roof. You can’t afford to stay too far from your office because the commute time would be impossible to manage. The result is millions of people cramped in horrendously tiny apartments, shelling out 30–40% of their salaries on rent.

Now imagine, there was a hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune. The real estate in between these two cities now suddenly is of value. People can stay 50–80 kms away from their offices in the heart of either city, and still manage to make it work. The pressure on the Mumbai and Pune real estate eases and we get a mega city encompassing both. Replicate this for other city pairs like Hyderabad-Secunderabad, Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Gandhinagar, Bhubaneshwar-Puri-Konark, Lucknow-Kanpur etc. You would have simultaneously removed one major infrastructural bottleneck and also improved the quality of life for a major chunk of the working population.

Finally, it is incredible that a technology like Hyperloop, which couldn’t even have been thought possible less than half a decade ago, is now almost a reality (thanks Elon Musk, the Man not from Earth), and that India is one of the first countries that could see it operationalize.

And we need to remember that the biggest changes are not incremental, but so disruptive that are thought of as impossible when they are first pitched.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford