Tech entrepreneur says he has received ‘verbal’ approval to start building an underground transport system linking New York and Washington
Elon Musk claims his ‘hyperloop’ transport project has been greenlighted
Approval for an ultra-high-speed underground train link that would cut the travel time between New York and Washington to just half an hour has been granted, according to the tech entrepreneur behind the scheme.
Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive behind the electric car company Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, claimed that he had received “verbal” approval to start building the system although he failed to say which entity had greenlighted the project that could see the building of the world's longest tunnel.
Musk, a serial inventor who allowed himself to be spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons, is seeking to revolutionise long-distance mass transportation by sending passengers and cargo in pods through an intercity system of giant vacuum tubes known as the ‘hyperloop’.
However there was confusion as ciity administration members in both cities said they had not approved any project, and under federal rules Musk would need extensive environmental and building permits to mount such an ambitious project.
Musk recently started an enterprise called the Boring Company to build transport tunnels for the system, which he says would be far faster than current high-speed trains and use electromagnetic propulsion.
Musk tweeted on Thursday that he had "just received verbal government approval for the Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins."
Amtrak's high-speed Acela train currently takes nearly three hours to cover the roughly 220 miles (355 km) between the two cities, assuming no delays.
Asked for details on who had offered approval, the Boring Company said in a statement it expected "to secure the formal approvals necessary to break ground later this year."
Musk also tweeted that a first set of tunnels would be to "alleviate greater LA (Los Angeles) urban congestion," adding that the company would also "probably" do a loop from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and another in Texas.
"City centre to city centre in each case, with up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators in each city," he wrote.
Musk acknowledged there was still a "lot of work" to do before formal approval was granted, but said he was optimistic.
Signaling that Musk's tweets may be premature, the press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted a reply: "This is news to City Hall."
Musk said in a later tweet that supporters should lobby government officials. "If you want this to happen fast, please let your local & federal elected representatives know. Makes a big difference if they hear from you," he wrote.
By traveling in vacuum tubes on magnetic cushions, hyperloop trains would avoid being slowed down by air pressure or the friction of wheels on rails, making them faster and cheaper to operate, supporters say. A number of startups have begun to develop the technology, despite concerns about the cost and practicality.