A ride on Branson’s first India Hyperloop may cost less than a plane ticket

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on May 16, 2018.
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MUMBAI: If Richard Branson has his way in India, hyperloop travel could turn out to be cheaper than a flight ticket.

Virgin Hyperloop One, the futuristic transportation company backed by the British tycoon, wants to build a network of high-speed pods that can carry people and cargo across India. It is looking to price the ride at less than what airlines charge in a market where air travel is growing at the fastest pace in the world. But, fares will still be more expensive than first-class train coaches, Harj Dhaliwal, Hyperloop One’s managing director for Middle East and India, said in an interview.

“India is a super price-sensitive market,” he said. “We are in the process of price modelling. We want to keep fares as low as possible to stimulate demand but not so cheap that will drive away financial or private investors from the project.”

The Los Angeles-based company has been working on a technology that uses magnetic levitation and low-pressure tubes to achieve airplane-like speeds. Branson has been pitching this concept to Indian authorities as a fix for the South Asian country’s infrastructure bottlenecks. Hyperloop One has been testing in Nevada with speeds reaching 386kph, and is planning three production systems in service by 2021, according to its website.

Though the science behind these pods has been mostly confined to the realm of science fiction, since futurist and billionaire Elon Musk first theorised a model in 2013, a few companies and investors have been plowing money to win the race for the first working system.

Hyperloop One is backed by investors including DP World Ltd, Caspian VC Partners, the Virgin Group, and Sherpa Capital.  — Bloomberg