Trackless trains: Is that the future? 1

The utmost in interplanetary human transport has yet to be commercially delivered. Such is the same regarding delivery of the utmost in intra-planetary travel. We have not yet arrived at either of those so-called “destinations.” Though on the journeys there, we’ve been uninterruptedly, if not, unwaveringly, plodding along.

As for what we’re in search of in this respect, in either case, do we even know how close we are? We will know when we get there, meaning, when those destinations are finally reached.

Looking at the intra-planetary transport side, okay, what exactly is it we are looking for?

Thinking in terms of what tomorrow’s societal needs might be, this, indubitably, should help us decide, in other words, point us in the right direction, you would think.

By 2050, it is projected that nine billion people will inhabit the earth. How, on earth, will that number be adequately provided for? Word is anywhere from 67 to 80 percent of inhabitants will reside in cities.

The next matter to be considered isn’t just how we will get around, but how personal mobility can be made more efficient, more seamless – how it can be improved, in other words.

In achieving the desired outcome it is important to understand that land use and transportation must mesh. One should never be considered independently of the other as was once the case; they should coordinate, articulate.

Obviously, this is where trains can fit the bill. Less obvious though are trains without tracks. That’s right, you heard correctly: trackless trains. They have names like Tubular Rail, Hyperloop and Aeroslider.

Okay, so why trackless trains? Why not cars and speedy aero planes? It should not be lost sight of that ever since the trackless-trains idea was “re-introduced” in 2013, not only has it gotten the publics’, but considerable media, attention, too.

Not just applying to this particular mobility option but all surface transportation platforms really, are seven key characteristics or considerations, these being: Ease of use, efficiency, speed, safety, affordability, sustainability and environmental. (The environmental aspect will be covered in-depth in Part 2 of this series).

Ease of use

Travel and transport as a whole should be easy to use. It should as well be made easily accessible, readily available and as uncomplicated and unrestrained as it can possibly be.


Ease of use and efficiency more or less go hand in hand. Efficiency describes how well something performs or works. The more efficient a transportation system in this case is, the better at getting goods and people from points A to B.


Along with efficiency, foremost on people’s minds is speed. As the distances become greater, speed becomes a more relevant factor. The faster that both goods and people can get from points A to B, the more desirable the mobility service that enables this, and the more desirable the mobility service that enables this, the more preferable, attractive such becomes to the user.


Of course, coupled with speed is safety, obviously. Travel and transport needs to be safe. As such, this gives people confidence, reassurance that any mode of travel and transport, regardless of type, can be relied upon time after time to come through in this regard without incident.


Whatever means is utilized, to get the greatest bang for the buck meaning, in order to be sufficiently utilized and/or patronized, these need to be extremely cost attractive; highly affordable, in other words.


And, finally, any travel/transport means should be made to last. None of this built-in planned obsolescence stuff will do. The longer a mode means lasts, the less expensive it is to operate over the long-haul, and that’s really the key here. Couple this with environmental friendliness, and really what we’re talking about here is having the best of all worlds – akin to having one’s cake and eating it too.

So, if trackless trains (many in the conceptualization, development and testing phases as this is being written) can fill the bill as it were, then this idea could very well be tomorrow’s mode of choice.

Magnetically levitated train

Explored in Part 2 will be trackless-train environmental considerations.

Image above: Alex Needham

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Dec. 6, 2019 @ 1:43 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

4 thoughts on “Trackless trains: Is that the future? 1”

  1. However why not trackless Personnel Carriers that operate from the advantage that they afford personal choice of movement in “one’s own vehicle” which then attaches to a rail free electronically-driven motive system embedded in existing roads.

    Here then becomes the advantage in that your “personal vehicle” has freedom to go to choices made by the user following natural routes and thn has the advantage to join up with trains of vehicles for longer routes and this can then have traditional peal-away off-links and joining points.

    The system would rely upon placement of sensors around the country (much like the mobile telephony systems already in place) which contain information systems to address most preferred routes, and an electrical pick up system which could be commonal-garden track points using trackless embedments placed in carriage ways whereby after a specified time run the vehicle would be directed to cross and recharge.

    In the advent that vehicles were to be programmed to adapt to a flexible out turn scenario where networks such as fixed rail (tracks) or “Maglevs” have their disadvantage in being positioned to pre-determined routes these could be upgraded relatively easily.

    Think outside the box a little.

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