Hyperloop One, a California-based company that is seeking to make the concept of aircraft-speed ground transportation a commercial reality, is hopeful that talks with the Dutch government to build a hyperloop track linking Amsterdam Schiphol and Lelystad airports could result in the two facilities effectively becoming one integrated aerodrome within five years.
Speaking at the Air Transport Action Group Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva in October 2017, Hyperloop One senior vice-president global field operations Nick Earle said the company was in "significant discussions with the Dutch government around the concept of creating extra capacity at Schiphol" by building a hyperloop link to Lelystad.
If the concept becomes a reality, Earle says the 50km (31 mile) journey between Schiphol and Lelystad would take just 4min, creating what he describes as "a single, integrated airport" at a "fraction of the cost" of building an additional runway.
"I'm hopeful there will be announcements on that going forward," says Earle.
Hyperloop One has built a 500m (1,640ft) test track in Nevada for its version of the hyperloop technology that was originally conceived by Tesla founder Elon Musk. Other firms are also attempting to commercialise the concept.
The idea is to build a ground transportation system in which passengers and cargo are loaded into pods that accelerate gradually through a low-pressure tube using electric propulsion. The pods are then lifted off the track by magnetic levitation, the aim being for them to glide at speeds of up to 650mph (1,046km/h).
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in October announced a partnership with Hyperloop One under which his company will invest an undisclosed sum in the firm. Branson will join the board of directors and the company will later be rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One.
On announcing the investment, Branson said: "After visiting Hyperloop One's test site in Nevada and meeting its leadership team this past summer, I am convinced this ground-breaking technology will change transportation as we know it and dramatically cut journey times."
The potential Netherlands project is one of a number of possible routes under consideration at various locations around the world. Earle says the company plans to build three sites for regulatory approval by 2021, with a full commercial operation expected in 2023.
"We're getting closer – we've got the plane to lift off the beach," he told delegates at the ATAG Summit. "We think the technology is there. Of all the industries I could talk to, you know from your roots when something comes along that was deemed impossible."
The Netherlands' former minister for infrastructure and environment Melanie Henriette Schultz van Haegen announced in October 2017 that her department had commissioned a hyperloop feasibility study. The report, Hyperloop in the Netherlands, was carried out in August by Arup, BCI, TNO and VINU.
It examined six scenarios for test tracks from two hyperloop companies – Hyperloop One and Hardt – and concluded that a link between Schiphol and Lelystad airports would be a favourable option, noting that the two facilities "have the ambition to become an integrated airport".
"Our advice to the government is to build a partly publicly-financed, full-scale, 3m diameter test track in the Netherlands," says the report. "Once this test track has been proven successful, it could be extended to a longer one and possibly even become part of a commercial track."
The report continues: "The most likely option would be to extend the test track in order to connect Lelystad airport to Schiphol. This would require a double tube system of 57km without stops."
The decision on whether to go ahead with a hyperloop system in the Netherlands now lies with the new Dutch government sworn in in October 2017.