Nanotechnology Can Revolutionize Travel in Europe
Could this be the future of transportation?

This is the winner of the second prize in the essay competition held by My Europe in Stockholm. It has been written by Fredrik Lorentzon.

The task was to write a futuristic piece about Europe in the 2030s.

Intersprinter is the train that has revolutionized the travelling industry with an impact comparable to that of the Internet. After two years of operations, it has been an environmental success and also a potential peacemaker. 

It started with Germany, Great Britain and France. In 2020 they proposed a collective railway network that would transfer the passengers in speeds above 900 km/h, faster than a regular airplane. A futuristic train-like vessel which for many seemed like science fiction was suddenly about to become reality in some of the largest nations of Europe. The proposal gained huge media attention. Now in 2030, twelve European countries are connected in what is now a matter for not only the EU but for the entire European continent. A dream has come true”, says an enthusiastic EU commissioner. “It is a great example of how modern technology and research really can change the world.” 

Modern technology is indeed very present in this project. It was the breakthrough of nanotechnology in 2015 that laid the foundation for the strong, yet lightweight material that is used for the new trains and railways. Since the MIT based scientist Angela Belcher made her Nobel prized discovery of so called Hypernano, the industry of nanomaterials has boomed. Hypernano is now almost everywhere, including in cars, computers, houses and space shuttles. The EU has more than doubled their budget for research and development the past ten years and according to the magazine The Engineer, an estimated 150 000 engineers are currently working with nanotechnology. The economy is flourishing, environmental organizations like Greenpeace are cheering for the development and for the first time ever, not a single sad song has made it to English top 10 music charts. As the retired UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon put it in a viral interview for BBC: “People have not been this optimistic about the future since the 1950s.” 

Intersprinter is the first large scale Hypernano project. It is also a project that has already changed people’s lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. The flight travels has finally drastically decreased between the connected countries and the number of train travels are increasing in rapid pace. After decades of economic stagnation, Eastern Europe has been stimulated and businesses are going better than ever. The economic enhancement has led to a larger middle class so besides using the Intersprinter as a business tool, Eastern Europeans also use the train for vacation. On top of that, Eastern Europe has become a more attractive tourist destination than ever before. 

Hypernano is not only light and strong, it is also extremely inexpensive. This makes Intersprinter relatively cheap to build and the ticket price can get low. A trip with Intersprint from Zurich to Milano only costs as much as three liters of milk, Paris to Copenhagen costs as a fine bottle of wine and a ticket from London to Rome costs no more than a better dinner. The main reason for the affordable tickets is however not the cheap construction costs but the important subsidies from all connected countries. This is the first time in EU history that member countries are collaborating in financing a major infrastructure project. “Free movement in Europe has finally become a reality from an economic perspective”, the President of the European Commission famously said when the decision had been approved. 

Despite the success of the Intersprinter, not everybody is as happy about the development. Flight industry fears for its existence and conservative organizations like No Nano have been founded to stop the rapid change. Their main argument is that a technical revolution that risks ending up in a time of turbulence or even war. Other groups of people who have tried to stop the changes are local organizations who think the railways are destroying their surroundings, people whose land are crossed by a track or people who just think the trains are too loud. Even though their campaigns are getting big media attention, the nano opposition is in tiny minority. 

After the success of Intersprinter in Europe, the EU now wants to expand the network. Primarily the aim is to get all the European countries to join but in a more long-term point of view, the EU wants to connect countries from our entire geographical neighborhood. Though nothing is confirmed, rumors tell that several African and Middle East states are open for the project. Also Russia has been mentioned in the discussions. Many believe that the ultimate way to get rid of the cold relationship between Russia and Western Europe is to build a link, an actual object connecting the places. What people have searched for for centuries, something that creates peace, turned out to be a train. 

Intersprinter has become much more than a train, it is something that truly unites Europe.