And I thought Kenya was being a little bit too ambitious upon unveiling a plan to generate 5000MW of power in five years time until I heard of the Vactrain.

You probably haven’t heard it, or you have but anyway, a Vactrain is a Vacuum Tube Train. This is what the engineers would tell you, is the future of railway transport. Picture this-you in a train cruising at a speed of two kilometers per second! Crazy right?!

Well, call it crazy but this is an idea in the pipeline, still cooking. While Kenya is celebrating getting at the standard gauge railway stage, some nations are looking at the possibility of railway transport on other levels.

Since the demise of the Concorde supersonic airliner, mass global transit speeds have remained stagnant since the 1960s,but new ideas are sprouting again.

The Vactrain
A vactrain is a maglev line run through evacuated (air-less) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. The lack of air resistance allows the vactrain to use little power and to move at extremely high speeds, of up to 6400, or 5–6 times the speed of sound at standard conditions. The last thing you want crossing your mind at this point is, what if the brakes failed?

Giant pumps would be used to keep a near vacuum in the tube, probably 30-40km apart. The main areas for leaks would be end stations. The trains would pass through a series of airlocks that progressively reduce the pressure until the train enters the fully evacuated tunnel where it could accelerate to top speed.

Operating in a vacuum, these “vehicles” would make almost no sound, even as they smashed through the sound barrier, because there’d be no air for them to create sonic vibrations in.

The vactrain are considered a good way of enhancing transcontinental travels. It could allow for rapid intercontinental travels and establish routes to form a global network. With such transport system installed in Kenya, it would take you less than four minutes to travel to Mombasa from Kisumu and possibly less than ten minutes to travel to neighbouring Uganda or Tanzania.

However, the cost of building such systems is extremely high. Elevated concrete tubes with partial vacuums have been proposed as alternatives to the vacuum trains.

One can never guess right where technology will have our current systems in the future; innovation is clearly unpredictable at times.




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