Virgin Hyperloop One says project in Saudi Arabia not 'cancelled'
The company denies media reports that Saudi Arabia has walked away from an agreement to launch the high-speed network
Virgin Hyperloop One has downplayed reports that Saudi Arabia has scrapped plans to build an ultra-high-speed transport network in the kingdom.
The Sir Richard Branson-led autonomous transport company, which wants to build a GCC-wide hyperloop network, has pulled out of Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative (FII), commonly known as Davos in the Desert. However, it has denied a claim by the Financial Times that the kingdom has turned its back on a deal for the hyperloop network in Saudi Arabia.
“We are not attending FII but we have not received [an] indication that our projects have been cancelled in [Saudi Arabia],” a spokesperson for Virgin Hyperloop One told Construction Week.
Saudi Arabia and Virgin Hyperloop One had been in months of talks to officially launch the autonomous transport system in the kingdom. Building the network that can reach speeds of up to 300m per second would theoretically cut the time it takes to travel between Dubai and Riyadh to 48 minutes.
The first step for the project would have seen the two parties work on a feasibility study, versions of which have already completed in UAE and India, where development plans are more advanced.
Virgin Hyperloop One completed a feasibility study with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in 2017 and progress has continued on the project since then. The company is now working on a physical prototype pod to improve the passenger experience. Plans are in place to move the project to the next phase, which focuses on determining the preferred alignment for the network's route.
The business also plans to open an office in Dubai.
In terms of construction, Virgin Hyperloop One’s 140km route between the Indian cities of Pune and Mumbai, which will cut transport time from 2 hours 43 minutes to just 25 minutes, is the most advanced of its plans, and construction on a 10-15km test track is scheduled to begin in Q1 2019.
The finished infrastructure project will be the first large-scale and commercialised Virgin Hyperloop One network ever built, providing it secures regulatory approval.