While companies such as Amazon are hoping to deliver parcels by air using drones, one British firm is exploring the equally high-tech concept of using a vast underground network of pipes in a bid to bypass the UK’s ever more congested roads.
The idea of underground freight deliveries using magnetic fields for propulsion may sound like something from a mediocre science fiction novel, but it is being taken seriously enough to be given development funds by the department for the environment, food and rural affairs.
Cambridge-based Mole Solutions is looking at whether its new concept could be used in Northampton. If it decides it could, a small-scale scheme would be piloted in the area and within a few years the ground beneath the town could be criss-crossed with cargo travelling in capsules through subterranean pipelines.
The capsules would be powered by electricity, producing magnetic fields that propel them along the pipe.
“Clean water is taken into homes and dirty water is taken away and we never really see it, while huge amounts of oil and diesel are transported by pipes underground. Now we want to do something similar with freight,” said Mole Solutions’ head Roger Miles, a former supply chain analyst at Esso.
“Congestion is a global issue and we could take a significant volume of traffic off the roads, not just in the UK but in countries like China and India. The bounds of this are limitless,” Miles said. Even the world’s fastest train — Shanghai Maglev Train is propelled using the principle of magnetic levitation or Maglev.