You can travel from Mumbai to Pune faster than you can get pizza delivered to your home. That’s only if a preliminary study, to be conducted by Richard Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One, yields positive results about the viability of connecting the two cities with a hyperspeed transport system.
The U.S.-based company, spun out of a concept envisioned by Elon Musk, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka to identify potential routes, analyse the economic impact and technical viability of Hyperloop in India, according to a media statement. The study won’t necessarily translate into a full-scale project. Depending on feasibility, the firm will reach out to the government for future talks, the statement added.
The hyperloop technology involves boarding passengers or cargo onto a pod-like vehicle which is pushed through near-vacuum filled tubes at around 1,000 kilometres an hour. The idea was publicly explained by Musk back in 2012, and has since spurred a series of companies working towards making that a reality. Among those is Hyperloop One which drew a “significant investment” from Branson in Oct. It is also the only company so far to have built and successfully tested a full-scale hyperloop system in Nevada, U.S.
“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,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a statement.
The study will not only focus on reducing the 3-hour long journey to a few minutes, it will also look to streamline airport connectivity by connecting Pune’s new Purandar Airport and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport to the Mumbai International airport, the statement added. It will also envisage connecting Nagpur to improve freight transportation.
An identical study is being conducted in Karnataka where Virgin Hyperloop One will look to connect the Indian technology hub of Bengaluru to other fast growing industrial hubs in the state, according to a separate media statement.
“Bengaluru has been the IT hub of the country and all major giants have been functioning out of the region,” said Priyank Kharge, the IT and tourism minister of Karnataka. “The introduction of a technology like hyperloop will further add to the pace at which the state wants to grow,” Kharge added.
Virgin Hyperloop One has already completed the feasibility study in Andhra Pradesh, submitted its report to the government and is now awaiting their feedback.
India is a key geography for developing hyperloop networks, Nick Earle, senior vice-president for global field operations, at Virgin Hyperloop One told BloombergQuint.
Earle said each hyperloop pod will have a capacity of 50 people. But it might take another four-five years to do any test with humans inside the pods. "To get a human in the pod is a part of a regulatory process. While we have proved the technology now we need safety certificates which will be issued by regulators locally. The first human test run would happen around 2021-22.,” he said.
Earle is hopeful that the Hyperloop pods will become commercially operational by 2023.