Elon Musk excites followers with Boring tweets

Musk is recruiting followers to lobby for a superfast underground train system that would connect New York to Washington DC in less than half an hour

Elon Musk is recruiting his army of millions of Twitter followers and Tesla aficionados to help him lobby for an audacious new superfast underground train system that would connect New York to Washington DC in less than half an hour.

Elon Musk is recruiting his army of millions of Twitter followers and Tesla aficionados to help him lobby for an audacious new superfast underground train system that would connect New York to Washington DC in less than half an hour.

 

Elon Musk is recruiting his army of millions of Twitter followers and Tesla aficionados to help him lobby for an audacious new superfast underground train system that would connect New York to Washington DC in less than half an hour.

After Mr Musk tweeted on Thursday morning that he had received “verbal [government] approval” for the scheme, a spokesman for what he has drily named the Boring Company said that the venture expects to “break ground later this year”.

“Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly,” Mr Musk tweeted. “If you want this to happen fast, please let your local & federal elected representatives know. Makes a big difference if they hear from you.”

The posts have received tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

Mr Musk did not name which agencies or officials had given him the informal go-ahead and representatives of other local authorities, including the New York City mayor, said they had held no discussions on the matter.

Infrastructure projects such as the one Mr Musk is proposing usually take years to obtain planning permission, especially when they involve co-ordinating several regional agencies as well as the federal government.

The founder of electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, meanwhile, is well-known for setting and missing ambitious deadlines - although the first deliveries of Tesla’s new Model 3 car have begun to ship to customers on time this month.

Mr Musk, the former PayPal executive, is no stranger to far-fetched ideas. Yet when he started tweeting last December about his plans to “build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging” because Los Angeles’ gridlocked traffic was “driving me nuts”, many took it to be at best a joke or at worst a publicity stunt.

By February, Mr Musk was able to point to a large hole in the ground on the SpaceX campus in Los Angeles as evidence that he was “actually going to do this”. He told the Ted conference in April that the project was “puttering along”.

Last month, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed with Mr Musk boring an underground rail link from the city centre to the airport. Such an idea has been discussed since the early 1990s.

The White House on Thursday lent credence to Mr Musk’s claims. “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” a White House spokesperson told the AP.

A representative for New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was more cautious about the East Coast plan, however.

“This is news to City Hall,” tweeted Mr de Blasio’s press secretary Eric Phillips. “The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what’s in Mr Musk’s tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale.”

The Boring Company - informal slogan: “Boring, it’s what we do” - has not detailed who other than Mr Musk might finance the purchase or development of the multimillion-dollar diggers or multibillion-dollar construction that would be required to realise the envisaged 200-mile tunnel running through New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC.

“The Boring Company has had a number of promising conversations with local, state and federal government officials,” a spokesperson said. “With a few exceptions, feedback has been very positive and we have received verbal support from key government decision makers for tunnelling plans, including a Hyperloop route from New York to Washington DC.”

The spokesperson went on: “We look forward to future conversations with the cities and states along this route and we expect to secure the formal approvals necessary to break ground later this year.”

- (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)