Northampton to be test site for underground freight pipeline project

Northampton to be test site for underground freight pipeline project

Mole Solutions will be running a “proof of concept” project in Northampton to test the viability of its freight pipeline system. Cambridge-based Mole Solutions announced last Wednesday (8 April) that it will be conducting the nine-month project under the Innovate UK SMART programme.

Mole Solutions has developed a concept whereby freight is distributed across a town through a network of underground pipelines. The freight will travel in electrically-powered capsules propelled by magnetic levitation.

Magnetic levitation – or “Maglev” – is an established technology that is already been used by the world’s fastest train, the Shanghai Maglev.

The pipeline network will link edge-of-town “consolidation centres” with strategically-placed, inner-town “nodal points”.

The Northampton project will begin with research and data gathering on the range and scale of freight movements currently taking place in the town, said Mole Solutions. “A freight pipeline based system,” added the company, “will then be conceived to improve the situation and a comparison of all the relevant parameters carried out to establish the benefits and the economic viability of the proposal.”

Mole Solutions is the project leader and system integrator, and it will be assisted by specialist contractors such as DHL (3rd party logistics), Morgan Sindall (tunnelling and pipe construction), Laing O’Rourke (civil engineering), Force Engineering (capsule propulsion), WGH (capsule and track) and SoSustainable (socio – environmental), and local university staff for data gathering and analysis.

This is a “proof of concept” project. It is still early days, and Northampton will not be thrumming with sound of tunnel diggers just yet. However, Mole Solutions believes that the concept does have “huge potential”, and the fact that it has attracted funding from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and also support from companies like DHL shows that it is not alone in this view.

According to Mole: “Irrespective of the merits of the final results for the test case, the process established in the project can then be used to assess other locations that have major congestion and pollution problems caused by excess road usage. Mole Solutions are already in negotiation with authorities at other major conurbations who have interest in the Mole Freight Pipeline concept.”

Mole Solutions Managing Director Roger Miles told PostandParcel today that the capsules could be used for transporting both larger bulk cargoes and smaller, palletized items.

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