|11 September, 2019

INTERVIEW: Virgin Hyperloop One project in India could see more than 100mln trips a year: CEO

The project could potentially create around one million jobs in India, according to Jay Walder

INTERVIEW: Virgin Hyperloop One project in India could see more than 100mln trips a year: CEO
Virgin Hyperloop One/handout via Zawya

The hyperloop route between Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune is expected to see more than 100 million trips annually, the chief executive officer of Virgin Hyperloop One said.

While the California-based transportation company is moving ahead with its plans in the United States and the Gulf region, the transformative technology is expected to become a reality first in India, according to Jay Walder.

Speaking to Zawya in an interview at 24th World Energy Congress held in Abu Dhabi, the CEO said that several factors go in favor of the Indian route in particular.

“It is a combination of things. First, there is a huge transportation need that exists between metropolitan areas in India, so there is a real need to implement it. The predicted use of this hyperlooop route in India is over a 100 million trips a year, so it is an extraordinary scale,” he said.

Mumbai has a population of 20 million and Pune has about 7 million people, Walder said, highlighting the massive need for transportation.

According to Walder, the project could generate almost one million jobs in India.

“You also see that the prime minister and the chief minister in Maharashtra are looking at this not just for the transportation benefit, but at how this will create jobs in India, and at how this will this create a huge industry…So we’re looking at potentially as many as a million jobs being created in India as a result of this,” he said.

The project will generate hundreds of thousands of new high tech jobs, Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement issued on July 31.

Last month, the Indian state of Maharashtra, home to the country's financial capital Mumbai and the city of Pune, announced that a consortium of Virgin Hyperloop One and Dubai's DP World would be the preferred operator to build “the first hyperloop transportation system in the world”.

The project is however yet to be awarded to the consortium.

The project between Mumbai and Pune is expected to cut down the travel time to less than 35 minutes, as opposed to the current over three-and-half hours by road. Read more here:

As for the timeline for the firm’s project in India, Walder said: “I expect that project to be awarded in early part of 2020, and then we will be able to move forward from that.”

“The place that we advanced the furthest now is in India. They have designated the hyperloop formally as an infrastructure project, so it’s alongside roads, bridges and trains,” he added.

DP World is currently the largest investor in Hyperloop One, and in November 2018, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO of DP World was elected as the Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, after Richard Branson stepped down from the role. Virgin Group remains a minority investor in it.

GCC, U.S. route

In July this year, Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) partnered with Virgin Hyperloop One to conduct a study for building a test and certification hyperloop track, which is set to be the longest worldwide. Read more here:

“We’re having discussions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Our work in KSA is in an agreement we had most recently around King Abdullah economic city, and the project is to build a center of excellence as well as to be able to locate a manufacturing facility in the economic city,” Walder said.

The project in Saudi includes building a 35-km test and certification track, a research and development center as well as a manufacturing facility north of Jeddah to develop a localized hyperloop supply chain in the kingdom, according to a statement from Virgin Hyperloop One.

Walder said the company has agreed with Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) to complete the first phase of the planned work by the middle of October, adding, “It’ll be a good milestone for the GCC.”

“As for the UAE, we are continuing to work with RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) in Dubai, but there are no specific plans to move forward on a project right now, but we’ve been updating on the technology we’ve been using,” he said.

Last year, Virgin Hyperloop One, along with DP World, introduced an international brand for hyperloop-enabled cargo named DP World Cargospeed. The consortium aims to use the technology for transporting light-weight high-value cargo at flight speed and trucking cost at the same time.

“We continue to work with DP World on the cargo case. We’ve always believed that cargo and passenger go together in the same system. So when we talk about moving forward in any project, we’re looking at moving forward in passenger and cargo… so both parts are complimentary,” he said.

In response to how the company views the race with other competitors such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, that is looking to build presence in the UAE, Walder said:

“Our company has built a full scale working hyperloop. We have conducted over 400 tests in the desert in Nevada outside Las Vegas.”

“We have strong partners; we have raised nearly $400 million of capital, we have about 200 people working in Los Angeles, and another 10 people working in Dubai and India,” he added.

The main competitors to Virgin Hyperloop One are Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, an American firm headquartered in Los Angeles and TransPod, a Canadian company based in Toronto which is also designing the ultra-high-speed transportation technology.

(Writing by Nada Al Rifai nada.rifai@refinitiv.com , editing by Seban Scaria)

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