Underground freight travel tested in Northampton
A high-tech study to see whether underground freight deliveries could become reality in the UK is to be carried out in Northampton.
A government grant will allow Cambridgeshire company Mole Solutions to see whether its magnet and track-based system could work in urban areas.
It is hoped the scheme could eradicate congestion and pollution from lorries.
The firm's technical director Stuart Prosser said the feasibility study will run for nine months.
A decision will then be made on its financial viability, which if successful could lead to pipelines being dug throughout the town.
"We're going to use Northampton as a bit of an exemplar," he said.
"They have some issues [in Northampton] with air pollution and distribution of goods and they want to see if there's other ways of doing it, rather than just using the traditional ways between the M1, the A14 and into the city centre."
The "mole" concept involves propelling bulk goods through pipelines powered by magnetic waves.
The company said the system could work unmanned in pipes laid beside or under existing transport infrastructure.
It claimed it is environmentally friendly and could allowed goods to be delivered to buildings and taken away again 24-hours-a-day.
If the trial proved successful, the scheme could be rolled out to other UK towns and cities.
The grant for testing has come from Innovate UK, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Mole Solutions has been testing the system at its base in Alconbury with aggregates, but hopes to trial other goods in the future.
During the trial it will work with Transport Systems Catapult, an innovation centre for intelligent mobility in Milton Keynes, and a number of construction and engineering firms.
The government has yet to comment on the grant.