Soviet Engineer Promises 300-mph Railway In The Sky

By Keith Barry

Anatoly Younitsky dreams of a future where high-speed rail has no rails at all.

The engineer from Gomel, Belarus has for 27 years been working on a rail-free alternative to railways. What began, under the supervision of the U.S.S.R. Federation of Cosmonautics, as a proposal for rocket-free space transport has evolved into a high-speed cable car system called a "string railway." Younitsky outlined the idea in an investment proposal on

According to the proposal, the string railway would ride atop a pair of suspended cables at speeds approaching 300 mph. In-wheel electric motors propel the 15-passenger cars along the cables, which hang from pylons spaced every 300 feet so. Younitsky says the system is ideal for congested cities or cold climates with permafrost, where the installation and maintenance of a traditional railway would be impractical.

A string railway might sound fanciful, but Younitsky said he already had an offer to build his concept in 1997 as a way to link Beijing to Taiwan - which would have been both a feat of transportation and international relations. The financing fell through, but the project is back and looking for investors.

The investment proposal estimates that a pilot system could be up and running in the United States for as little as $35 million, and one-quarter that price if it's built in Russia. "Operation during five years will pay back all the expenses for research, development and earn a profit of US $1 billion," Younitsky wrote.

"The relatively low amounts of materials necessary to build the line will halve the cost as compared to the cost of a traditional railway of the same length," Younitsky wrote. He estimates 100,000 passengers could use the system each day and pay just $15 per trip once the system is built to scale.

Additional cost savings come from building and installing pylons over existing roadways to save the cost of land acquisition. In other words, cities can throw their rails in the air like they just don't care.



Partners: Social Network