22 July 2113
Ahmed enters the crowded entrance hall of Leipzig Central Station. Sunrays penetrate the gigantic windows above him, made visible by dust-filled, summer-heated air. Around him whirls a multitude of languages.
|The European Vactrain Network|
He passes the grand staircase leading up to the conventional platforms towards dozens of brightly illuminated sliding doors. It was a one-minute wait, when a free elevator car arrives, taking him 200m down through the swampy soil of Leipzig, to the heart-piece of the continental transportation system: the European Vactrain Network. Construction of the EVN began in the 2060s with the Central Line, connecting London with Munich via Brussels, Cologne and Frankfurt. By now the network has extended to eight lines, with another under construction. Ahmad doesn’t recall the time when the EVN wasn’t there, but he knows that vactrains are quite a bit faster than aeroplanes, which still deal with the bulk of intercontinental transportation. It will take another 7 years until that changes with the completion of the Transatlantic Link connecting Lisbon with Kourou and New York.
What bothers him is the absence of natural light. Ahmed reminds himself how a vactrain works. Basically it is nothing but a train on a magnetic levitation track in an evacuated tunnel. Airlessness means that there is no air resistance, allowing the train to accelerate with maximum energy efficiency. A vactrain is completely quiet, and can reach speeds of up to 6500km/h. The technology has revolutionised transportation in Europe.
After a few minutes Ahmed's seat rotates once more. Deceleration. "The next stop is Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof," announces a female voice over the loudspeaker. Half an hour later, Ahmed steps out of the train into Bruxelles Midi.
To be continued...