Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) has 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, the California-based transportation firm said.
The project 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.
Founded as a technology start-up five years ago, the firm is now looking to turn into a mass-transportation company. Its technology enables depressurized tubes to carry cargo pods at speeds as high as 1080 km per hour, which is three times faster than high-speed rail.
The firm says that it is already making strong progress across the world, including in United States, India, and the GCC region. In an interview with Zawya in April, Josh Giegel, co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop One, said that in the GCC alone, it is set to build about 4,000 km of hyperloop systems and aims to launch its first commercial operations in India by 2028.
In April last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a Vision 2030 Hyperloop Pod during his visit to the United States and the plan to bring the technology to Saudi Arabia.
The hyperloop will allow a journey of less than 60 minutes from Riyadh to the Red Sea Project, 41 minutes from Riyadh to Makkah, and 5 minutes from Makkah to Jeddah, according to an infograph sent by Virgin Hyperloop One to Zawya.
Dubai’s DP World is currently the largest investor in Hyperloop One, and its CEO, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, was elected as the Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One after British billionaire Richard Branson stepped down from the role in late 2018.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has boosted its investments in futuristic high-profile ventures. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) said in October 2017 that it planned to invest $1 billion in Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company. However, Branson suspended talks on the Saudi investment in Virgin Group last year.
(Writing by Nada Al Rifai, editing by Daniel Luiz)
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