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Linear-motor delivery system could remove trucks from roads

06 January, 2020

A British start-up is hoping to revolutionise the way that parcels and other small items are moved around by carrying them in pipes on carts propelled by a proprietary linear synchronous motor technology. London-based Magway reckons that its technology could cut the UK’s CO2 emissions by more than six million tonnes a year by reducing the number of delivery vans on the country's roads.

Magway was founded in 2017 by Rupert Cruise and Phill Davies who were inspired by Elon Musk’s Hyperloop idea for transporting passengers at supersonic speeds through vacuum tunnels. Magway’s transporters would travel at a more sedate “optimal” speed of 31mph (50km/h), milliseconds apart, in 90cm-diameter plastic pipes which do not need to be evacuated. The pipes could run underground or overground, next to road or rail routes, or in existing tunnels.

Magway has already attracted almost £1.5m in funding and grants, including more than £650,000 from the UK government's Innovate UK organisation to build a prototype system. Magway’s partners in the Innovate project include Ocado Innovation, the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and the Leicestershire-based linear motor specialist, Force Engineering.

Magway has also launched a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube which has alreday exceeded its £750,000 target. Magway says that the biggest group of backers for its campaign have been 18-30-year-olds.

Magway plans to send small packages in totes carried by carts driven by linear motors

The company has built a demonstration system at its Wembley headquarters and is initially hoping to construct short-distance delivery systems at airports and between warehouses. It expects to start building a wider UK network of pipes, spanning hundreds of kilometres, in 2023. Its ambitious plans include installing 850km of track in decommissioned gas pipelines under London. It estimates that that if this was done, 94% of London’s daytime population could be within a 15-minute walk or cycle of a Magway station where they could collect their parcels.

Magway recently appointed Anna Daroy, former CEO of the Institute of Directors, as its managing director. “Magway has big ideas,” she says, “and big ideas are exactly what are needed right now to help move the UK closer to providing a lower-carbon, less congested and safer transport infrastructure, capable of dealing with the huge growth in e-commerce deliveries.

“Not enough is being done to address the future of our transport infrastructure,” Daroy adds. “Without a significant step change in managing how billions of parcels and goods reach our doors, delivery traffic will continue to increase along with the levels of toxic air we breathe.”

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