First Hyperloop test tracks will be built soon

Construction to begin in California in bid to construct 760mph train system

Hopes for a supersonic transportation system took another step forward with the announcement by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) that it has filed and secured plans to build a five-mile test track in California.

The company will start surveying land around Quay Valley in the coming weeks, with construction begin in the summer.

"After over two and a half years of research and development, our team has reached another important milestone. This will be the world's first passenger-ready Hyperloop system," said Dirk Ahlborn, the chief executive of HTT.

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HTT is one of two ventures currently looking at developing the technology first outlined by SpaceX and Tesla Motors boss Elon Musk.

Hyperloop is a radical and hypothetical inter-city system of low-pressure vacuum tubes through which travel passenger and freight trains. The low air pressure means that in theory, the trains will be able to travel at high speeds – "up to 760mph", says The Verge, adding: "Theoretically, travel between San Francisco and LA could take 30 minutes."

Musk first proposed Hyperloop in 2012, although the basic idea of ultra-fast rail by running trains within enclosed, low-pressure tracks has been around for some time. So-called "Vactrains" have been touted as a possible successor to the aeroplane as the fastest mode of commercial travel.

HTT's rival, Hyperloop Technologies Inc, has also made moves towards making the technology a reality. They recently secured 50 acres of land in Nevada to construct their own test track, which will be ready this year.

The BBC visited the site and first impressions were good.

"I can absolutely believe the skills Hyperloop Technologies has brought in from the likes of SpaceX could crack the science, overcome the air resistance and withstand the acceleration - it will be gentle," said the broadcaster's Spencer Kelly.

Hyperloop Technologies has secured $37 million (£26 million) in funding for their research, but a full-length track running from Los Angeles to San Francisco has been estimated by Musk to cost $8 billion ($5.6 billion).

That figure has been met with huge scepticism. Michael L. Anderson, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley, told the New York Times the cost would be more than ten times Musk's estimate.

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