Hyperloop may be coming to India: ‘far better than Bullet Train’

17 Nov 2017


Los Angeles-based Virgin Hyperloop One, a startup backed by Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson to create ultra-high velocity transportation, on Thursday signed a MoU with the Karnataka government to conduct a feasibility study in Bangaluru.

The study will identify potential routes in Karnataka to improve connections between its emerging industrial hubs. If the project comes to fruition, passengers will be able to travel from Bangalore to Chennai in just 20 minutes.

Virgin's Hyperloop One is conducting similar studies along with the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments. It said it has entered into a pact with the Maharashtra government to conduct a preliminary study to identify potential routes for the new transportation mode and analyse its economic impact.

The hyperloop mode uses technology in which a vehicle in a special tunnel floats above the track, using magnetic levitation, at a top speed of over 1,000 km per hour.

''The introduction of a technology like hyperloop will further add to the pace at which the state wants to grow,'' said Priyank Kharge, Karnataka minister for ITBT & tourism, at the Bengaluru Technology Summit.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, "A hyperloop route requires high-density traffic to become viable as a means of rapid public transit. Mumbai and Pune, the most and seventh most populous cities in India respectively, have the potential to provide an optimal route with a high density."

By reducing travel time to under 20 minutes, a hyperloop route will help intensify the connectivity between the metropolitan regions of Pune and Mumbai, transforming the two cities into India's first and largest Megapolis, he added.

The company said it can reinvent and transform transportation in Maharashtra as it redefines speed with minimal time consumption.

It could also streamline airport connectivity, such as connecting Pune's new Purandar Airport to the city centre or Navi Mumbai International Airport to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

"A hyperloop solution could revolutionise the transport experience," the company said, adding that it would take just 14-minutes to travel between Mumbai and Pune - a journey that takes up to 3 hours by car.

The study is intended to analyse the applicability and benefits of hyperloop technology and identify high priority routes within states, based on demand analysis and socio- economic benefits.

The company has such tie ups worldwide including Russia, Helsinki-Tallinn, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, Los Angeles, USA, Dubai-Abu Dhabi, and United Arab Emirates.

"As we are the only company in the world that has built and successfully tested a full-scale hyperloop system, there is a growing demand from governments and the private sector around the world," Virgin Hyperloop One said.

Virgin Hyperloop One senior vice president global field operations Nick Earle said India is one of the most important geographies for developing hyperloop networks and reimagining the complete transportation system.

"With this preliminary study, we are excited to initiate the buildup of a strong foothold that we foresee in future throughout the state," he added.

To start with, the Hyperloop system claims to have a capital cost per mile that is 60 per cent of what a high-speed train would cost to build and operate.

''Hyperloop also takes a much smaller footprint, is less expensive to construct, uses very less electricity and is way faster than the bullet train,'' Earle said.

According to him, India's push towards Japan's bullet train technology will do little for the country ''because besides the technology advantage, bullet train components are all manufactured in Japan, getting hardly any jobs to India''.

Hyperloop, on the other hand, plans to set up a research lab in the city, and licence the technology to local manufacturers, which will create tons of local jobs, Earle said.

The technology will require minimum real-estate commitment and uses less electricity, which is ideal for a country like India that has a huge population base, claimed Earle.

Hyperloop is a new-age transportation system that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at speed of nearly 1,100 km per hour or above.

''The pod lifts off the track using magnetic levitation and glides at speed of an airtcraft for long distances, owing to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. They can also create their own energy after a certain speed,'' Earle said.

Hyperloop One has set up a development site in the desert outside of North Las Vegas, Nevada where the company conducted a series of tests.

It first broke ground in 2016, by developing the world's first full-scale Hyperloop test track.

The team has conducted several tests since then, and successfully tested its prototype passenger pod, reaching a speed of up to 310 km per hour.

Richard Branson and Virgin Group invested into Hyperloop One in October 2017.

Hyperloop One recently opened up the projects to accept proposals from entrants around the world working on Hyperloop systems. Two Indian teams – AECOM and Hyperloop India – were selected among the 10 shortlisted candidates for the Hyperloop global challenge.

While AECOM is working on the 334 km long Bangalore-Chennai route, Hyperloop India is working on the proposal for a 1,102km Mumbai-Chennai route.

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