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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

DP World-backed Virgin Hyperloop One to build rapid-transit route in India  

Deal signed with the Indian State of Maharashtra to link Pune with Mumbai in 25 minutes

Virgin Hyperloop One inked a deal with the Indian State of Maharashtra to build a hyperloop route linking Pune and Mumbai. Courtesy Hyperloop One.
Virgin Hyperloop One inked a deal with the Indian State of Maharashtra to build a hyperloop route linking Pune and Mumbai. Courtesy Hyperloop One.

Virgin Hyperloop One, a DP World-backed company developing the futuristic transportation concept inspired by Elon Musk, signed an agreement with the Indian State of Maharashtra to build the world’s first hyperloop route between Pune and Mumbai – shrinking the time taken to travel between the two cities from three hours to 25 minutes.

“I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact on India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century,” said British tycoon Sir Richard Branson in India. He made an undisclosed investment in the company last October, becoming non-executive chairman and rebranding the company to Virgin Hyperloop One.

“The Pune-Mumbai route is an ideal first corridor as part of a national hyperloop network that could dramatically reduce travel times between India’s major cities to as little as two hours. It will also help alleviate the misery of people sitting in traffic, hour after hour.”

Hyperloop is a proposed method of transportation that could shunt people and cargo at speeds of up to 700mph. It was unveiled by businessman and inventor Elon Musk in 2013, who claimed it could take passengers from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes, less than half the time it takes in an aircraft.

The technology comprises an airless tube that works like a vacuum, using magnets to propel floating pods from one point to another. The tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.

There are several firms attempting to bring the technology to market, including Elon Musk, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, and Virgin Hyperloop One, which is backed by the UAE ports operator DP World, whose chairman Sultan bin Sulayem is a board member.

The proposed hyperloop route will link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai in 25 minutes, connecting 26 million people and helping to create a “thriving, competitive megaregion”, according to Mr Branson.

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The system will support 150 million passenger trips annually, saving more than 90 million hours of travel time, and providing citizens with greater opportunities for social and economic mobility.

It could also move palletised freight and light cargo between the Port of Mumbai and Pune, helping to support India’s expanding logistics industry.

Under the agreement with the State of Maharashtra – which follows a pre-feasibility study agreement between Virgin Hyperloop One and the Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority last November – the company will commence a six-month feasibility study followed by a procurement stage.

Construction of the hyperloop will start with an operational demonstration track to complete within two to three years. That will serve as a platform to test, certify and regulate the system ahead of commercial operations to begin in 2021.

The Pune-Mumbai route would bring $55 billion of socio-economic benefits over 30 years, the pre-feasibility study found. The fully-electric transport system would also ease road congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000 tons annually.

Dubai-based DP World and Caspian Venture Capital invested together $50m in the company in November 2016, bringing the total financing raised by Virgin Hyperloop One to $295m since it was founded in 2014. Mr Branson has declined to reveal the size of his investment.

Before Mr Branson’s investment, when it was named Hyperloop One, the Los Angeles-based company signed an early-stage agreement with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority in 2016 to examine the business case for a hyperloop between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which it claims would cut the journey time between the two cities from 160 minutes to 12 minutes.

The company has a similar agreement in place with DP World to assess the case for using Hyperloop technology to move freight from container ships docked at Jebel Ali to a planned new inland container depot.

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