A general guide for performing a comparative cost-benefit analysis.
This article gives a brief summary of the report on hyperloop vertical alignment options written by Delft Hyperloop. For the full report, click the button below!
No clear comparison or framework has been developed to assess which vertical alignment option is the best one, depending on the location-specific parameters. This project aims to develop a guide that will allow decision-makers to get insights into the trade-offs for each available vertical alignment option. This guide will highlight the parameters that are important to consider while comparing the three options. It is a tool that contributes to the development of the hyperloop concept and improves the decision-making process related to it. The developed guide is based on the existing knowledge regarding the hyperloop system and on the different methods available to assess major infrastructure projects.
The hyperloop system is an innovative mode of transport that could redefine the traditional view on mobility. The high costs of investment and the relatively large impact of this type of infrastructure create the need to compare the different options related to the location and positioning of the hyperloop tracks and assess the different trade-offs. This report highlights, in the form of a guide, the parameters that are important to consider while comparing the three vertical options:
- In the underground option, the tubes are located under the ground level at a certain depth. The path is laid using various tunnelling or digging methods.
- In the on-pillars option, the raised tubes are supported by pillars in which the hyperloop pod would travel.
- In the on-surface option, the tube is located at the ground level, occupying all the space of its length on the surface.
The structure and method of the guide follow the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) methodology to increase the objectivity of the comparison, the robustness, and the universality of the framework developed. The summary of the guide’s structure is presented in the schematic below. The guide identifies the effects, benefits, costs, risks, and presents methods to monetize them.
Finally, the developed guide is applied to a real scenario to compare the best alignment for a specific section in a corridor linking Amsterdam to Brussels.
Determination of Effects
First, the guide presents the effects that should be considered when comparing the different vertical alignments. The direct and indirect effects such as the effects on nature, aesthetics, travel time, and emissions are monetized to be included in the CBA. Several methods are available to include the nature conservation parameter into the comparative CBA by identifying, quantifying, and monetizing them. The aesthetics parameter should also be monetized to be included in the CBA by using a stated preference approach, in which the willingness to pay is estimated. In the case where the alignments that are being compared have different lengths, then the shorter alignments have the benefit of travel time savings. These savings should be monetized using the value of travel time saved, and then included in the CBA. Additionally, a lifecycle analysis should be conducted to include the emissions that are generated from the different components and stages of the infrastructure lifecycle. Finally, in the case where the infrastructure constructed is used for other utilities, the induced costs and benefits should be accounted for in the analysis.
Determination of Costs
Second, the parameters that involve costs must be considered in the CBA. The major costs are related to construction and land acquisition. The construction costs vary significantly between vertical alignment options since different structures are considered with different layouts and materials. For the land acquisition, the above-ground options require a substantial amount of land, however, the precise area needed is not clear due to the lack of legislations for the hyperloop. Additionally, for all the designs the security and safety of the system should be considered by providing the necessary components to protect it from hazards and attacks. Finally, for the energy generation parameter, the main difference is that the above-ground options provide the opportunity to generate energy using solar panels, hence these benefits and related costs should be included in the CBA. These costs remain general since they highly depend on the details of the design and the on-site parameters.
Determination of Risks
Third, a sensitivity analysis can be performed to determine the different final comparative results if some aspects of the system are uncertain. The results of the sensitivity analysis could be presented to the decision-makers and contingencies can be added to the estimates to include the risks and unforeseen uncertainties in an indirect way.
Case Study: Amsterdam to Brussels
In the case study, the developed guide is applied to a real scenario to compare the best alignment for a specific section in a corridor linking Amsterdam to Brussels. First a horizontal alignment is developed linking Amsterdam to Brussels while respecting the minimum horizontal radius for a hyperloop and the Natura 2000 protected areas (in green).
The total present value (PV) for both alignments in the 42 km corridor is obtained: between 568.4 and 658.7 M€ for the above-ground alignment and between 1145.5 and 2234 M€ for the underground alignment. It is essential to note that these costs do not include the common costs between the alignments such as the levitation systems, the vacuum pumping systems, the maintenance of the common components, the access roads to the emergency exits, etc.
It becomes clear when only considering the construction, maintenance, protection, and land costs that the above-ground option is more advantageous with a lower PV. However, in this study the effects of the alignments in terms of aesthetic, nature conservation, and emissions are not monetized and included in this analysis. If these effects were to be included, the difference in the total PV would decrease. A summary of the considered quantitative and qualitative parameters is presented in the table below.
Hyperloop is an innovative mode of transport that can be constructed in three different vertical alignments. Up to now, a clear comparison between these options had not been made. This guide highlighted the different parameters to include in the cost-benefit analysis, allowing decision-makers to get insights into the trade-off and evaluate the best solution case by case. This guide can be used to perform a cost-benefit analysis to compare different vertical alignments at a specific section or different horizontal alignments. The developed comparative CBA guide remains a general guide that presents the different trade-offs available in similar decision-making processes. The parameters discussed in the guide could be further detailed and should be estimated in accordance with preliminary structural and system designs. Location-specific elements that are not mentioned in this guide might also be included in the comparison if necessary.
Authors: Stavros Xanthopoulos and Edoardo Avogadro di Cerrione