Branson in talks to develop nationwide KSA hyperloop

Sir Richard Branson described the Saudi hyperloop prohect as "a vision that allows people to be able to travel quickly, securely and comfortably with completely clean technology." (Virgin)
Updated 03 May 2018

Branson in talks to develop nationwide KSA hyperloop

  • Hyperloop project could be announced later this year, British entrepreneur tells Arab News
  • Virgin Hyperloop One unveils Cargospeed system in conjunction with DP World in Dubai

DUBAI: A nationwide hyperloop transport network could reduce traveling times in Saudi Arabia from hours to a matter of minutes under plans by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin entrepreneur. 

Speaking exclusively to Arab News on the sidelines of an event in Dubai to launch a new cargo logistics system in partnership with UAE ports group DP World, Branson said he had discussed the proposed Saudi hyperloop with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the US and now was in advanced talks with the Saudi government.

A hyperloop project for the Kingdom could be announced later this year, he said.

“We are talking about linking Saudi cities across the country. It is a vision that allows people to be able to travel quickly, securely and comfortably with completely clean technology,” Branson said.

 

The ultra-fast network could cut travel time between Riyadh and Jeddah — currently about 10 hours by car — to less than an hour, he estimated.

The hyperloop system would probably be launched on the Red Sea coast, possibly to connect the Red Sea Resort, a partnership between Branson and the Saudi government, with the rest of the region. It could also potentially link Neom, the $500 billion high-tech city in the northwest of the Kingdom, and be extended to Riyadh and the rest of the country.

“It will cost half the price of conventional high-speed rail networks, and can carry cargo as well as passengers. The crown prince visited the Virgin Hyperloop site in America and I think he liked what he saw. I think the project in Saudi Arabia will happen pretty quickly,” Branson said.

After the US meeting, the crown prince said: “Hyperloop is the catalyst to enable all fourth-generation technologies to flourish in the Kingdom while creating a vibrant society and thriving economy through visionary cities and high-tech clusters.”

Branson was speaking at an event in Dubai to mark the launch of DP World Cargospeed, a transport system based on hyperloop technology that will allow much faster delivery times in the global logistics business, and has the potential to revolutionize global trade in the same way that containerization did 50 years ago.

“Goods can be delivered anywhere in the world in 14 hours, cargo from Dubai to Saudi Arabia within less than an hour,” said Sultan bin Suleyam, chairman of DP World.

“The technology has been developed to connect cargo delivery around the world at the speed of air travel but the cost of land transportation,” he said.

I think the project in Saudi Arabia will happen pretty quickly

Sir Richard Branson


The system uses comparatively small pallets that can be loaded on to special pods for movement between logistics centers. Cargo and passengers can be transported together and separated at the point of arrival. 

A pilot test of the system will take place on a 10-kilometer stretch of track near Mumbai within a few weeks, Branson said. “I think Saudi will begin not too long after that,” he said.

Rob Lloyd, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, held out the prospect of a GCC-wide, high-speed transport system. “We think it’s feasible to think about a hyperloop network that will connect Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Jeddah for cargo and passengers.”

Virgin completed a feasibility study with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority this year to explore the viability of a UAE-wide hyperloop system.

“We are aligned with the RTA to create a feasible and well-thought-out system that will create the maximum benefit for passengers and cargo,” Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement.

Several other hyperloop projects have been mooted in the UAE, but so far none has been officially approved.

The RTA recently denied rumors that it had approved a link between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, citing the need for careful planning and research to “reduce the potential risks and maximize the potential of the project.”

The authority also denied approval for a link between Dubai International Airport and the new Maktoum airport that would reduce a 30-minute road trip to a six-minute journey.

Decoder

What is a hyperloop?

A hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system, consisting of a network of pressurized tubes, and a series of pods that can carry passengers or cargo. Using magnetic levitation technology — used by train systems in countries including China, Japan, France and Germany — Virgin Hyperloop pods have already achieved speeds of 240 miles per hour.


Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

Updated 06 December 2019

Japan’s households tighten purse strings as sales tax and typhoon hit

  • Falls in factory output, jobs and retail add to fears of worsening slowdown after Tokyo unveils $122bn stimulus package

TOKYO: Japanese households cut their spending for the first time in almost a year in October as a sales tax hike prompted consumers to rein in expenses and natural disasters disrupted business.

Household spending dropped 5.1 percent in October from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday.

It is the first fall in household spending in 11 months and the biggest fall since March 2016 when spending fell by 5.3 percent. It was also weaker than the median forecast for a 3 percent decline.

That marked a sharp reversal from the 9.5 percent jump in September, the fastest growth on record as consumers rushed to buy goods before the Oct. 1 sales tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent.

“Not only is the sales tax hike hurting consumer spending but impacts from the typhoon also accelerated the decline in the spending,” said Taro Saito, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute.

“We expect the economy overall and consumer spending will contract in the current quarter and then moderately pick up January-March, but such recovery won't be strong enough.”

Household spending fell by 4.6 percent in April 2014 when Japan last raised the sales tax to 8 percent from 5 percent. It took more than a year for the sector to return to growth.

Compared with the previous month, household spending fell 11.5 percent in October, the fastest drop since April 2014, a faster decline than the median 9.8 percent forecast.

Analysts said a powerful typhoon in October, which lashed swathes of Japan with heavy rain, also played a factor in the downbeat data. Some shops and restaurants closed during the storm and consumers stayed home.

Separate data also showed the weak state of the economy.

The index of coincident economic indicators, which consists of a range of data including factory output, employment and retail sales data, fell a preliminary 5.6 points to 94.8 in October from the previous month, the lowest reading since February 2013, the Cabinet Office said on Friday.

It was also the fastest pace of decline since March 2011, according to the data.

Real wages adjusted for inflation, meanwhile, edged up for a second straight month in October, but the higher levy and weak global economy raise worries about the prospect for consumer spending and the overall economy.

While the government has sought to offset the hit to consumers through vouchers and tax breaks, there are fears the higher tax could hurt an economy already feeling the pinch from global pressures.

Japan unveiled a $122 billion fiscal package on Thursday to support stalling growth and as policymakers look to sustain activity beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A recent spate of weak data, such as exports and factory output, have raised worries about the risk of a sharper-than-expected slowdown. The economy grew by an annualized 0.2 percent in the third quarter, the weakest pace in a year.

Analysts expect the economy to shrink in the current quarter due to the sales tax hike.