A Closer Look at the Infrastructure Costs

The total cost of the hyperloop system is an important factor that determines if the hyperloop can be realized in the future. The investment costs of a hyperloop system are high, which is similar to other infrastructure projects. For example, the target costs of the London High Speed 2, a high-speed railway, are above € 100 million per kilometer [1]. Next to that, the metro connection between the North and South of Amsterdam cost almost €320 million per kilometer [2]. These high costs are often acceptable, due to the major travel time savings and socioeconomic benefits.  

For the hyperloop infrastructure costs, a distinction has to be made between above-ground and underground infrastructure. Underground infrastructure is required to cross urban areas, which includes additional costs for tunnelling. Above-ground infrastructure is cheaper but causes other challenges such as heat expansion and landscape pollution. It is assumed that 50% of the infrastructure in Europe can be constructed above ground. Stations, vehicles and operational costs are not considered in this cost calculation. 

Figure 1 – Overview of general characteristics 

The infrastructure costs are based on characteristics of the technical design as researched by Delft Hyperloop, which can be seen in Figure 1. The tubes are 3.5 meter in diameter and made of steel, due to its high strength to weight ratio for both tensile and compressive stresses. To prevent the tubes from buckling, the thickness is 25 millimeters, which is even sufficient to withstand a close-range gunshot. The pods are levitated by Electrodynamic Suspension (EDS) and therefore a conducting track is required. A Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) is used for the propulsion and braking of the pods. Additional active coils guide the pods along the track. Concrete support pillars are used as support structure of above-ground infrastructure.  

An overview of the total infrastructure cost can be found in Table 1, both for above-ground and underground infrastructure. The values are determined for bidirectional transport. Above-ground infrastructure costs are approximately €38 million per kilometer, whereas underground infrastructure costs slightly more than €60 million per kilometer. The difference is mainly caused by the additional tunneling costs that is needed for the latter. As can be seen, the tubes make up the majority of the costs.  

Table 1 – Bidirectional hyperloop infrastructure cost overview per kilometer  

All components that can be seen in Figure 1 are taken into account in the tube costs. Two tubes will be placed to accommodate transport in both directions. The majority of the tube costs is determined by the LSM propulsion (€12.9 million), steel tubes (€8.6 million) and man-hours for construction (€5.0 million). Vacuum pumps and additional costs for cables and lighting only account for a small part of the costs. Above-ground tubes are more expensive, due to the additional concrete foundation pillars, solar panels on top that generate additional energy, and an aesthetic cover to minimize landscape pollution.   

For underground infrastructure, both tubes will be placed in a single tunnel with a diameter of 8.5 meter. As tunnel costs are predominantly determined by the diameter, multiple infrastructure tunnels with similar diameters are analysed as reference [3]. Furthermore, an increasing tunnel length decreases the costs per kilometer due to economies of scale. To cross large dense areas, which is needed to connect the major European cities, it is expected that hyperloop tunnels are large compared to existing infrastructure tunnels. The analysis resulted in a total of approximately €25 million per kilometer. This includes emergency shafts for safe disembarking in emergency situations, and portals to connect above-ground with underground infrastructure. 

Planning and land costs can take up a significant amount of infrastructure project budgets. For high-speed railways, this often represents between 5% and 10% of the total investment amount [4]. These costs include feasibility studies, technical design, land acquisition and other cost aspects such as legal and administrative fees, licenses and permits. When analysing other large infrastructure projects and comparing these to hyperloop infrastructure, a conservative estimate of €5.5 million per kilometer is made. This is based on bidirectional transport, high infrastructure costs and multiple dense areas that need to be crossed.  

To implement a hyperloop, the system must meet certain standards to guarantee safety, both for the pods and infrastructure. This is regulated via certification of the system, which is done by specialized companies. Already established railway standards can be used as guidelines for hyperloop certification. However, these standards need to be adjusted to meet the requirements of a hyperloop system. According to experts in the certification branch, in general, 1% of the total investment costs is budgeted for certification costs of infrastructure projects.  

References

[1] Noord-Zuid lijn Costs (Dutch): https://www.at5.nl/artikelen/184604/zaterdag-noordzuidlijn-eindelijk-open-de-opvallendste-feiten 

[2] HS2 Costs: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldselect/ldeconaf/134/13406.htm 

[3] Tunnel Costs: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/infrastructure-cost-review 

[4] Land Costs: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967070X09000109 

All references were consulted on February 22 2019

By Delft Hyperloop, February 2019

Leave a Reply