Saudi Arabia, Virgin Hyperloop One to conduct world’s first national hyperloop study

Officials witness the signing of an MoU in Riyadh. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh.)
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Updated 09 February 2020

Saudi Arabia, Virgin Hyperloop One to conduct world’s first national hyperloop study

  • It will examine viable routes, expected demand, explore socioeconomic impact

RIYADH: A groundbreaking study will be conducted to build the world’s longest hyperloop track,  the Ministry of Transport announced on Thursday.

It said an agreement with Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), the world’s leading hyperloop company, would see a groundbreaking pre-feasibility study conducted on the use of hyperloop technology, laying the groundwork for a network of routes across Saudi Arabia.

The study is the first to be carried out anywhere in the world and will examine viable routes, expected demand, anticipated costs and explore the socioeconomic impact, such as the creation of jobs and environmental effects.

Speaking to Arab News, Harj Dhaliwal, VHO’s managing director for the Middle East, who signed the agreement with Khaled Al-Romaih, deputy minister for planning and information at the Ministry of Transport, said: “This is the first step, we want to create a solid foundation. The agreement with the ministry brings us one step closer to the realization of our vision for a connected Saudi Arabia and a connected Gulf.

“We have a vision for the Kingdom, and that vision is of connecting it and the Gulf with the ability to travel from Riyadh to Jeddah in 46 minutes, to Neom from Jeddah in 40 minutes, from Riyadh to Dammam and Jubail in 28 minutes, and to go beyond the Kingdom, from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi, in 48 minutes.      

“It’s not just about providing a future transportation system, it’s the ecosystem behind it. What we want to do is to be able to bring technology to the Kingdom to be able to share and develop that knowledge. We signed an agreement with King Abdullah Economic City in October last year specifically to look at manufacturing, how we can actually bring technology, and that is expected to create about 124,000 jobs.”

Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser said: “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has outlined the role of transport in shaping the future of the Kingdom’s economy within Vision 2030. As we enter a new decade, we intend to make rapid progress in building the infrastructure required to define mobility for the future, enabling the efficient movement of people and goods. With the transformative hyperloop technology, Saudi Arabia will not only unlock unparalleled benefits for its people and the economy but will continue to lead the region into an era of prosperity.”

Technology would play a pivotal role in the progress and transformation of the Saudi economy, added VHO Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.

Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, said: “The economic potential is enormous to connect passengers and cargo at unprecedented speeds with zero direct emissions. The system would be up to 10 times more energy efficient than short haul flights and 50 percent more efficient than high-speed trains. In fact, a hyperloop in the region could be powered entirely by solar panels which cover the tube, making the technology hugely attractive to the sun-abundant Kingdom.”


Saudi Arabia's Princess Nourah University opens admissions for animation, photography degrees

Updated 55 min 34 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's Princess Nourah University opens admissions for animation, photography degrees

RIYADH: The College of Arts and Design at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) announced the introduction of two new programs in animation and photography in the new academic year on Sunday.

The decision was made in response to the needs of the Saudi labor market and falls in line with the goals of the Vision 2030 initiative. Animation and photography join fashion and textile design, sculpture, printmaking, and graphic design and digital media as arts degrees offered by PNU.

Dr. Maha Khayyat, dean of the College of Design and Art, spoke about the programs and said that they were curated with the graduates’ working futures in mind.

“The College of Designs and Arts is keen to integrate its various specializations and the participation of the students enrolled in them in joint projects to work together, and training them to join the labor market,” said Khayyat.

The animation program will include courses on designing cartoon characters and the basics of writing films and sound. It will give graduates the skills to create animated films and to integrate into the industry on a local, regional, or even global scale. Khayyat said that the students’ work could help to highlight Saudi culture and enhance national identity.

The photography program provided students with skills in both still and moving photography. Graduates will be well-equipped to handle any type of professional photography, from product shoots and fashion shows to photojournalism.

The news was welcomed by professionals in both fields. The animation industry in Saudi Arabia has been enjoying unprecedented success this year. The hugely popular YouTube animated series Masameer, from the Saudi Myrkott studio, was adapted into a full-length feature film and played in cinemas across the Kingdom in January. Saudi animation studio Manga Productions debuted the country’s first anime series in the same month entitled “Future’s Folktales”, in collaboration with Japan’s legendary TOEI Animation studios.

Farah Arif, a senior animator at Manga Productions who studied computer science, told Arab News that it was about time studying animation became a viable option for Saudi creatives.

“I wish the opportunity had been made available to me. There’s a huge market for animators in Saudi Arabia, especially with the film industry gaining popularity. Saudi creatives finally have a chance to make a living off their art, and to pursue the study of it in their home countries. It’s a huge step forward,” she said.

She also recommends that anyone thinking of pursuing a career in the arts to do so, given the current environment and level of support from the government.

“Most of us in the industry have been successful without the relevant degrees. Imagine what you could do if you actually had one. The opportunity is there, so you can’t use the lack of a degree course as an excuse anymore. If you have the passion and the drive, go for it.”