|The air cushion principle, once
proven practical, was quickly adapted to apply to other vehicles
and modes of transport. From the late 1960's and during the
1970's a variety of ideas were drawn up and experimental
vehicles built. Most of them successful, proving we had a viable
One of these ideas formed itself into an air cushion train,
often called the monorail because of its single track. A
train, riding on a cushion of air, which would have almost no
friction, would be considerably faster than traditional rail
transport, and cheaper.
Europeans, Americans and the Japanese all drew up plans for
air cushion trains, sometimes magnetically levitated - the
MagLev - or by
linear induction - without any moving parts - or through other means of
propulsion. However produced, the key principle for a smooth and
high speed ride was provided by the cushion of air.
The benefits of air cushion trains are several. Rail
construction is far cheaper than with steel - simple concrete
central tracks, which can then be raised on pylons, laid on roads or in
tunnels. It's high speed, low noise and low ecological impact. A perfect
solution one might think. Unfortunately, the best isn't always
The rail network that never happened
network of these hovertrains were devised to run between major
European urban centres, travelling at speeds up to 480 km per
hour (300 mph). A viable and clean alternative to expensive air
travel and congested roads and highways.
We can only speculate that
vested interest, such as steel and existing rail
construction companies, lobbyied heavily because in the almost
thirty years since its conception the hovertrain network is
virtually nonexistent. The French Aerotrain project being a case
in point (see table).
In a capitalist world, doing the right thing often takes
second place to doing that which makes a profit, or that which is in
someone's special interest, and so it goes with air
cushion technology, solar
energy technology and other clean alternatives to existing,
wasteful and expensive applications.
The future of hovertrain rail networks
that's not to say times aren't changing. The ridiculous wealth
many Western-style governments built up, often by overtaxing their
citizens and companies, during the twenty five years from 1970
up to 1995 and beyond, and of which a large part was spent on
construction and other existent cartels, such as energy and
telecommunications monopolies, is rapidly running out in the new
The average citizen cannot cope anymore with outrageous
prices for local produce and services and is voting with the
only power he/she has left - the wallet.
The corruption scandals are beginning to float to the surface
of corporations overcharging for government projects and filing
fraudulent accounts and government officials are finally waking
New projects are scrutinized more closely for feasibility
and especially pricing and future economics and the hovertrain,
amongst other new technologies,
is poised to take its deserved place in modern, fast, reliable,
eco-friendly and low cost mass transportation.
ACV technology and monorail
One area where the
air cushion is being actively utilized is in monorail
development. Whether in combination with MagLev technology or as
a straightforward hovercraft principled vehicle, the monorail is
finally coming into its own.
Several successful ACV trains are already in use on a smaller
scale and more are being built at present and planned for the
future in ever wider and bigger networks (see above). Sadly,
most of the current systems are short-distanced, local
applications, making little use of the real advantage of ACV
trains - speed over distance.
But where the hovertrain will
succeed the steel monsters on their tracks during the next
decades, so will the hovercraft finally claim its rightful place as
widely accepted personal and commercial transport.