From Colorado To Mumbai, Hyperloop Going Global
Tech maverick Richard Branson is on a Hyperloop mission in locations spanning from Colorado to Mumbai, halfway around the world. In Colorado, Branson’s company is moving forward with a feasibility study to build a Hyperloop portal at the Denver International Airport.
Meanwhile, in India, Branson has made the most progress with his bold play to improve mass transit across this giant country. His revolutionary travel company, Virgin Hyperloop One, now plans a low-priced $150 ride from Pune to Mumbai that would cut travel time from 3 hours to just 25 minutes.
The journey from Pune to Mumbai, India’s biggest city, is 92 miles long by road, and 57 miles by train. Congestion on the roads currently sees commuters spending up to 3 hours on the road. This stretch of highway also happens to lie inside India’s most bustling corridor. As a result, traffic often slows to a crawl, leaving over 130,000 daily commute vehicles at the mercy of traffic incidents and other transit delays.
With the Hyperloop connecting the two cities, millions of daily commuters would be able transit much more quickly. The addition of a new, viable transit option would also lessen the burden on the roads, resulting in quicker transit even for the people left using the road connection.
Mumbai’s connection to Pune is an important transit corridor because Pune is an important cultural center. While Mumbai boasts the role of financial capital of Maharashtra state, Pune has a strong draw as a major cultural center.
Besides its tourist attractions, Pune has a vibrant local industry and the city also hosts many of India’s well-known educational institutions.
The Economic Case For Hyperloop Technology
Recognizing the severe problem of congestion, in February 2018, the Indian state of Maharashtra entered into an agreement with Richard Branson of the UK to develop a hyperloop connecting the cities. Cutting transit times between these important centers is estimated to have a positive economic impact of $55 billion. This, according to Branson who, in the past said, “The proposed hyperlink system will transform the transportation system and make Maharashtra a global pioneer in the space. The socio-economic benefits of the project is $55 billion, and will create thousands of jobs.”
These benefits would accrue from the system’s ability to move freight, light cargo and passengers through 150 million journeys annually. In addition, the system would be more environmentally-friendly than road or rail, resulting in greenhouse gas reductions.
Branson’s company plans to build many more hyperloops in India and elsewhere. One system in India envisions as much as 620 miles of hyperloop networks. The Pune-Mumbai connection is a smaller proving ground for the bigger project.
Elon Musk’s Hyperloop: An Idea For The Ages
While Branson’s project in India has been rolling out, with occasional updates, the adoption of the Hyperloop elsewhere has not been without controversy. The idea of a hyperloop, a system of high-speed pods carrying passengers hundreds of miles in mere minutes, was first broached by Elon Musk in 2012. Wired chronicles the history of the Hyperloop, tracing it back to an original white paper Musk posted on the SpaceX website.
The system consists of a passenger-carrying compartment riding on top of an air cushion. In the original white paper, Musk laments the expense and slow speed of the California high speed rail, writing, “When the California ‘high speed’ rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? ”
Elon Musk’s conceptual Hyperloop achieves speeds of up to 700 mph, much higher than 164 mph for California high speed rail. In contrast to air travel, Hyperloop technology focuses on smaller distances and can, therefore, be more economical for mass transit between major cities. Branson is among those eager to apply the technology to real transit systems.
The Push For Modern Transit: From London To California And China
Similar ventures to those in India could aid other heavily populated places on earth. Elon Musk was motivated by the situation in California. Now he has another company working on mass transit in the Los Angeles Area to create a hyperloop for the state. The Boring Company, as it is called, recently announced that it is close to completing work on underground tunnels that will shuttle people around the LA area. CNBC reports that the project will reduce traffic on the surface and Elon Musk has announced the ticket cost per ride will be just $1.
Meanwhile, in London, which has transit challenges of its own, Richard Branson has suggested that a hyperloop there would make the perfect solution. His proposal involves building a network of hyperloops such as the one he has tested in Nevada and is building in India. Branson has argued that the project would reduce costs to a third of those of building high speed rail while being much quicker. Linking the UK’s major airports would be a major goal, reducing commute times and traffic significantly.
Besides Britain and the US, heavily populated nations in other parts of the world, such as Japan and China, are already thinking about how they can improve mass transit between their cities. Japan has long had high-speed maglev trains that link Tokyo with major Japanese cities.
In China, plans are underway to create a hyperloop-based “flying train” that would travel at 2,485 miles per hour, according to a CNET report. The company behind the project is taking inspiration from Elon Musk’s original Hyperloop idea. In the press release on a Chinese news site, the company revealed plans to achieve far higher speeds.
The Final Frontier: Commercial Transport To Other Planets
If Branson is to have his way, the Hyperloop is but one frontier in the race to develop new mass transit systems for mankind. Recently, a Fortune report announced that he was undertaking astronaut training to go into space himself. Recent progress at Virgin Galactic, his space tourism project, led him to say that commercial space travel was a matter of months, not years, away.
On the space frontier, Branson faces competition from both Elon Musk as well as Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin space travel company. Branson told the BBC he and Jeff Bezos were in a “race with ourselves” to see “who will put people into space first.”
While these projects could fundamentally change the trajectory of the 21st century, some concerned civilians have raised questions about the prioritization of these projects. In an environment when government funding has dried up for groundbreaking scientific and civilian projects, it is not always clear who pays for the costs of these new adventures beyond the frontier. This trio of frontier enthusiasts, for now at least, seem to be continuing on apace.