Wed, May 16, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Ride on Branson’s hyperloop may cost less than US$150

INDIAN SYSTEM:Richard Branson has signed a deal for a hyperloop framework and mooted a Mumbai-Pune system that would shrink the travel time to 25 minutes

Bloomberg

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 would still be more expensive than first-class train coaches, Hyperloop One managing director for Middle East and India Harj Dhaliwal said in an interview.

“India is a ... price-sensitive market,” he said. “We are in the process of price modeling. 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 nation’s infrastructure bottlenecks.

Hyperloop One has been testing in Nevada with speeds reaching 390kph and is planning three production systems in service by 2021, its Web site says.

Though the science behind the pods has been mostly confined to the realm of science fiction, a few companies and investors have been plowing in 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.

In February, Branson signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai for a broad hyperloop framework, and mooted a Mumbai-Pune system that would shrink travel time to 25 minutes and save about three hours.

The first Indian commercial hyperloop between the two cities is targeted to roll out by 2025, two years after India aims to complete its maiden bullet train project linking the commercial hubs of Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

For instance, an economy seat on a flight from Pune to Mumbai a week from now would cost about 10,000 rupees (US$150), while the first-class train fare for the 90km trip is about 1,165 rupees.

The project might not be all as easy as it sounds, said Mathew Antony, a Mumbai-based managing partner at Aditya Consulting, a boutique business advisory firm.

It needs to be truly affordable to the masses to be successful and hurdles in the form of opposition to land acquisition could complicate the execution, he said.

“Hyperloop is an excellent idea only if it is to be developed as a mass transport mode,” Antony said.

Hyperloop One is in talks with the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka for possible projects, cofounder and chief technology officer Josh Giegel said, adding that its goal is to build a national network.

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