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Paul Bell: Connected to tomorrow's world

As the region which redefined transport once before through the invention of the steam train and the creation of the railway, North East England could now be set to lead a second transport revolution.

Through its involvement in the global-leading Hyperloop One project – which brings airline speeds of travel to a greener, more efficient new mode of transport, hailed as the world’s most revolutionary train service – the whole of the North of England and Scotland could be accessible within 47 minutes.

Paul Bell

Already in trial in Nevada, following a successful pilot of the world’s first full-scale Hyperloop system near Las Vegas, Hyperloop One is set to become a reality in the coming years. The North East’s bid to create its first European route has been selected as one of nine shortlisted bids from more than 2,600 international entries.

Under the banner of Northern Arc – a pioneering business-led consortium comprised of international Newcastle-based architect Ryder, Arup, KPMG and local government – the bid is seen as a key component in strengthening the North East’s involvement in the Northern Powerhouse, creating a bigger and better Northern network. The 545km route from Liverpool to Glasgow would take 47 minutes, and that would take you via Manchester, Leeds, Tees Valley, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Paul Bell, partner at Ryder, is a passionate champion of the bid to bring Hyperloop One to the North of England, and particularly to Newcastle. In his city office, based only metres away from where George Stephenson pioneered the world’s first steam engine, The Rocket, Paul believes North East England’s world-renowned innovative, entrepreneurial spirit is an important factor.

“The North East is a hotbed of innovation and of bringing new technology to the world, it would be such an important thing for the region to be at the forefront of a new transport revolution,” he said.

“This would be an opportunity to build on our pioneering heritage in this area, we brought the railway to the world, and again we could be at the forefront of Europe and indeed the world through Hyperloop One and Northern Arc. We are known for our innovation and passion and have been at the forefront of new industries for hundreds of years. This would again be something absolutely transformational that the North East could play a central role in, and is a great opportunity to once again export our skills to the rest of the world.”

Hyperloop One – the brainchild of Elon Musk and which recently received significant investment from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group – promises to create a new world-first infrastructure to transport passengers and cargo in pods through a tube-like system, travelling at speeds of up to 700mph powered by electric propulsion. Through the creation of a Hyperloop route in the North of England, journey times would be a fraction of current travel duration.

Paul said: “At Ryder, we have an office in Glasgow which takes 2.5 hours to get to from Newcastle, but through bringing Northern Arc to reality, all of a sudden that becomes a matter of minutes. From Newcastle to Edinburgh would be 12 minutes. From Edinburgh to Glasgow 7 minutes. The whole route through the North and into Scotland, going the long way around, takes 47 minutes – you’d be lucky to get from Glasgow to Edinburgh in that time now.

“I am very passionate about Newcastle and North East England, this is a superb region, but we have an active role to play in a wider North. Through Northern Arc, we want to create a major economic centre for the whole of the North, going from Scotland’s strong economic zone of Glasgow and Edinburgh down to the M62 corridor, which is growing strongly. We want to extend the influence of the Northern Powerhouse and connect that economic power with Scotland.

“Through the connection of cities, airports and ports, the whole of the region would be minutes away. In Hong Kong, they have city check-ins, where you check in your bags in the middle of the city before you fly, and then go out into the city. One of our ideas for Northern Arc is a version of that, where you can check in your bags in a city, they will then be transported securely by Hyperloop system transfer, and you can have a day out in any of the cities on the route.

“The North East is a great place with an unrivalled blend – we have the opportunities presented by the city alongside amazing countryside, a fantastic heritage in so many areas and great universities where students from around the world study and decide they want to remain in the region. We are ambitious and open to innovation and continue to lead the world in many areas – Northern Arc is reflective of that.”

  • The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence works with organisations to improve efficiencies, gain competitive advantage and improve quality of life using satellite data.
  • The Hitachi facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham is manufacturing 65 trains for the East Coast Mainline’s new fleet.
  • Port of Tyne’s distribution fleet covers the equivalent of 8 trips to the moon and back each year.
  • Newcastle International Airport handles worldwide imports and exports with its well-established Dubai route with Emirates playing a significant role.

The content and photography in this editorial section were produced by North East Times.

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