Underground freight trial to go ahead

30 April 2015

GREAT BRITAIN – Mole Solutions is exploring the possibility of using small robot trains running on underground tracks to manage deliveries. It has reportedly received a funding packet from the British government to help test the viability of the proposal.

The UK-based company was formed in 2002 to focus specifically on underground and piped freight solutions. The system it favours uses magnetic wave propulsion; effectively mag-lev technology. In fact, the technology used here is simpler, cheaper and generates much less heat than maglev. It works with partners including 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), Local University for data gathering and analysis.

Mole Solutions said the small tunnels could be installed alongside existing transport infrastructure and create a system that runs 24 hours a day.

The steel carriages would run down concrete tubes measuring between 1.3 m (4.27 ft) and 2.4 m (7.87 ft), while the loading and unloading would also be handled automatically. Unloaded pallets would be stored in secure, temperature-controlled units at specified depot.

Capsules would not power themselves, instead electricity would be used to run linear induction motors (LIMs) built into the track. The magnetic fields would then propel the capsules to their destination. UK newspaper The Independent reports that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in Britain has stumped up cash for a trial run in Northampton.

There are benefits for supply companies like DHL or UPS, as they could get packages to customers more quickly for less cost. Despite the enthusiasm for the idea, all the parties involved admit there's a long way to go before we're picking up our deliveries from a Mole Solutions drop-off point. The small-scale trial is designed to investigate the commercial, environmental and socio-economic impact of such a scheme before a decision is made on whether it can be rolled out elsewhere.