A new high-speed ground transport system with its sights set on Australia's east coast could be the force to sort out the two biggest capitals' inter-city rivalries once and for all.

Hyperloop One, the latest company to propose a futuristic high-speed transport system for Australia, believes it can connect Sydney and Melbourne in such a way that would essentially transform the warring capitals into one, interdependent megaocity.

The transport company charged with making a reality of Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk's idea of passenger- and freight-carrying tubular capsules capable of speeds of more than 1000km/h along a magnetic track just days ago had its first appearance at a federal parliamentary committee opening discussion with government figures and making an appeal for support.

But in order to gain support for the project, the company doesn't only have the scepticism of Australians who have been promised a high speed rail system connecting our two major cities with less than an hour's travel time. It also has widespread criticism of its, as yet, not fully tested transport system to deal with.

Advertisement

Ahead of their big pitch, Hyperloop One executives spoke exclusively with news.com.au to shut down the haters.

Australian transport enthusiasts have learnt to be wary of high-speed travel pitches. They've heard it all before.

But despite extensive criticism, Hyperloop One is going hard at convincing those in power that its futuristic travel solution is a realistic one that could actually work, and most importantly, be used.

The company's vice president in charge of worldwide business development, Alan James, told news.com.au Hyperloop has "some real major differentiation" from high speed rail "scenarios" that have tried and failed in Australia.

"First of all, we're just faster. That's the way it is," he said.

"We'll make Sydney and Melbourne really connected to each other. That's just the way it is. If you connect two cities with Hyperloop, you get, effectively, a sort of global city punching above its weight in a global economy, which is a really competitive advantage. You get that sort of conglomeration, you get more productive jobs and companies, really big macroeconomic impact."

The minds behind Hyperloop are rejecting criticism that the ride would make people sick. Image / Supplied
The minds behind Hyperloop are rejecting criticism that the ride would make people sick. Image / Supplied

Dr James says a ticket for a 58-minute Sydney to Melbourne journey, which would be booked via an app and involve minimal fuss and wait times for travellers, would cost less than a full-priced, last minute plane ticket.

SHUTTING DOWN THE HATERS

The idea of travelling between the two major cities in less than hour, from Sydney to Newcastle in 10 minutes, and between the NSW capital to the nation's, Canberra, in only 17 minutes, sounds extraordinary.

But one of the many points of criticism Hyperloop One has faced when selling their idea, is around what riding in one of their pods would really feel like.

The project's biggest critic, engineer and blogger Alan Levy has written comprehensive essays poking holes in the Hyperloop plan, leading to scepticism around the project.

Levy seized on details contained in white paper plans for the modern fast train system, saying riding in one of its pods would feel like spending an hour on a loopy rollercoaster, and taking a corner would be worse on the stomach than a train taking off.

His influential criticism has also no doubt caused a few PR-related headaches for the US-based company.

"It's not transportation; it's a barf ride," he wrote.

"I looked into Alon Levy who's the source most quoted in (anti-hyperloop) articles," the group's US-based levitation engineer Casey Handmer told news.com.au.

"He's clearly a smart guy who I would venture to say is accustomed perhaps to always being right that is not necessarily accustomed to questioning the conclusions that he may have."

Sounding like he's fought this battle before, Dr Handmer explained why claims of extreme motion sickness that would be caused by riding the Hyperloop were not accurate. He says criticism of the Hyperloop's initial proposal is shortsighted.

"The white paper is not a released drawing for engineering construction. It's a white paper, it's an alpha design, a glorified napkin sketch," he said.

"Everyone here who has worked on developing it recognises that the white paper was something a bit spur of the moment. Elon was kind of put on the spot.

"It's a place to work from and he's been doing that."

Even disregarding Levy's criticism, observant engineers and other commentators have ventured that land travel at such high speeds couldn't possibly be comfortable, but Dr Handmer has an answer for that too.

"The thing about Hyperloop is that we can completely control the track way better than you can do with high speed rail, way better than you can do with a plane. So already we can make the experience inside the tube entirely predictable," he said.

"And yet obviously we've got people here including myself working on understanding the accelerations and jerk. So if you want to go around a corner pretty quickly, if you want to turn pretty quickly, you'll have to take some Gs, but I don't think it would be different to what you might experience in an elevator that is starting or stopping in a tall building, plus you'll be seated at the same time."

In what will come as good news to the safety and motion sickness conscious, and a likely disappointment for speed enthusiasts, Dr Handmer is so sure the meticulously engineered ride will be so smooth it could border on dull.

"The job of engineers is to hide all that so you just feel natural. We're going to try and make it incredibly quick, but in terms of the ride experience, it's probably as boring as riding a lift or an escalator."

THE RACE TO BRING HIGH SPEED RAIL TO AUSTRALIA

Hyperloop One is optimistic, but it's aware of its competition.

A Hyperloop based ground transport system hasn't been built anywhere else in the world and its Nevada testing site won't be fully operational until next year. But Ultraspeed Australia director Sean Duggan, the official representative of Hyperloop One in Australia, says the company is already engaged with a number of stakeholders, from federal Ps to local governments, and plans to secure support tou ndertake a "project scoping study" early next yaer to assess the feasability of a Hyperloop system in Australia.

As it announced it had earmarked the Sydney to Melbourne east coast route as an ideal testing ground for its global project earlier this month, another group proposing a high speed rail system for the same area was already in discussions with government and stakeholders about its plans.

Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA) is the Australian private company proposing a high speed rail network connecting the two capitals, plus Canberra, and eight brand new cities in between.

Its chairman Nick Cleary has said CLARA is advanced in its plan for developing regional hubs connected by a fast train line, and was seeking government support.

It's proposing its plan as a population strategy and a real estate plan, on top of a travel solution.

But Hyperloop One isn't worried.

Dr James said while CLARA "fundamentally have a good idea", that Hyperloop One was "a bit smarter in the way they approached developing their transport system.

"Sydney house prices are the second most expensive in the world after Hong Kong depending on who you listen to, and you have immense disparity of value between that of Melbourne and the rest of Australia," Dr James said while discussing CLARA's strategy to manage the cities' population growth by attracting residents to the new cities along the proposed rail network.

"Clearly by building transport connectivity between places that are currently undervalued and places that are currently overvalued, ideally what you get is a spread of economic opportunity, and people can live in different places and work in different places."

But Dr James said Hyperloop preferred to service existing communities already in need of development, rather than work to create new cities.

"We'll work with people on the ground to realise the existing development opportunities in place that need the development and want it," he said.

"But it's also about ensuring there is public benefit to places that are connected with a public transport system, not just private ventures, after all that's what this is, it's public transport."

The race to bring high speed transport to Australia has heated up, with both major companies giving evidence to the parliamentary committee on infrastructure, transport and cities in Sydney last week.

While each claim to be advanced in their plans to revolutionise the way we travel between cities, they need government support before they can get there.

And each company is convinced it has the most efficient, affordable, and comfortable solution. They just have a little more convincing to do.