x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 October 2017

Branson's Virgin forms partnership with Hyperloop One investment

Sir Richard will join the board of the California start-up, which will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One in the coming months

Sir Richard Branson is to join the board of Hyperloop, which will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One. Kimmo Brandt/EPA
Sir Richard Branson is to join the board of Hyperloop, which will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One. Kimmo Brandt/EPA

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group announced on Thursday it is investing in Hyperloop One in a strategic partnership aimed at establishing new passenger and cargo transport services for the superfast rail concept.

As part of the deal, British bearded ballooning billionaire Sir Richard will join the board of the California start-up, which will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One in the coming months, according to a joint statement reported by AFP.

No financial details were immediately available.

In November last year, The National reported that Dubai is set to be home to the world’s first Hyperloop One transport link, which is expected to begin operations for passengers in 2020.

Ambitious plans for a new multi-billion dollar, hi-tech transport system were unveiled that would see travel times between Dubai and Abu Dhabi slashed to as little as 12 minutes.

Once operational, passengers will be able to book travel on the magnetically levitated system with a smartphone app that the creators promise will provide a door-to-door service.

“Having signed an agreement with DP World in August to pursue a cargo-based Hyperloop One system at Jebel Ali Port, our focus has now expanded to include connecting the emirates,” Rob Lloyd, chief executive of Hyperloop One., said at the time

“As a central global transport hub, pursuing the implementation of a Hyperloop in the UAE makes sense.

“The leaders of the UAE understand that transportation is the new broadband, with the power to transform life throughout the GCC.

“We are now at a stage where, from a technological point of view, we could have a Hyperloop One system built in the UAE in the next five years.”

He was speaking during the signing of an agreement between the company and Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority at the Burj Khalifa.

Sir Richard, who has investments in retail, music and airlines, and undertook a series of long-distance balloon voyages in the 1980s and 1990s, said he believes in the new system, which aims to deliver transport at near-supersonic speeds in sealed tubes, according to AFP.

"After visiting Hyperloop One's test site in Nevada and meeting its leadership team this past summer, I am convinced this groundbreaking technology will change transportation as we know it and dramatically cut journey times," he said .

"Virgin has been known for investing in and creating innovative companies over the years, and I look forward to making history together as we bring Hyperloop to the world as Virgin Hyperloop One."

Shervin Pishevar, the co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One, said the partnership "feels like a natural fit".

"Virgin is an iconic brand and having Richard as an ally will help strengthen our mission to spread Hyperloop One throughout the world," Mr Pishevar said.

Hyperloop One is developing a system theorised by the entrepreneur Elon Musk for rail transport at near-supersonic speeds, and in August announced that a test of full hyperloop system at its private facility in the desert near Las Vegas was a success, hitting record speeds.

_____________

Read more:

Hyperloop rivalry hots up with HTT’s plan to build full-scale capsule

After confirming Dubai, Hyperloop sets sights on India

_____________

DP World Group of Dubai last year invested in the concept, joining backers including French national rail company SNCF, US industrial conglomerate General Electric and Russian state fund RDIF.

During what the start-up referred to as Phase 2 testing, a pod fired through a tube depressurised to the equivalent of 60,000 metres above sea level reached an unprecedented speed of 309 kilometres per hour in August.

Hyperloop One, which has previously raised more than US$160 million, is working to develop a pod system that can travel at up to 1,200kph with better safety than passenger jets, and lower build and maintenance costs than high-speed trains.

Mr Musk's hyperloop involvement is for now limited to potentially building the tunnels with his latest start-up - The Boring Company.

Several companies are now exploring the market, including Northeast Maglev, Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.