Heathrow to Gatwick in five minutes

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Hyperloop One. Image © Virgin

For anyone who has plodded up the M23 and around the M25 between Gatwick and Heathrow, the thought of travelling between the two airports in just five minutes must seem fantastic but that is what is being suggested by Sir Richard Branson.

Rather than spend money on a third runway at Heathrow he is suggesting a hyperloop system in tunnels which would transport passengers from one airport to the other.

That he has invested his or his company’s money in a hyperloop system might seem to some to be biased in his suggestion but it deserves consideration.

Back in 2013, Elon Musk started developing his idea of a hyperloop link between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The journey of 350 miles would take just thirty minutes. The price is budgeted at about $6 billion but his hyperloop would travel above ground for some of the journey. Tunnelling underground as Branson suggests would cost a lot more. Musk identified problems in stopping and starting on very short journeys so let us say that it would take 20 minutes to travel the 38 miles between the two. That would still make the idea appealing. But – and here’s the major problem as I see it – you would still need to expand Gatwick to cope with additional flights. At either airport expansion is needed so why built an expensive link as well as a runway?

To me the attraction of a hyperlink service is that it offers a better opportunity than HS2 does. An above ground system linking Edinburgh and London or Liverpool to York via Manchester and Leeds would seem a much better use of the technology. Such fast connections could be built above existing railway lines thus providing slow and express services, cutting the need for some regional air links and giving us – at long last – a twenty-first century railway.

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