Virgin Hyperloop’s first passengers’ journey into future of transport

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Virgin Hyperloop executives Josh Giegel, its chief technology officer, and Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience, reached speeds of up to 172km per hour at the company’s DevLoop test site. (Virgin Hyperloop)
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The company has previously run over 400 tests without human passengers at the Nevada site. (Virgin Hyperloop)
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The company has previously run over 400 tests without human passengers at the Nevada site. (Virgin Hyperloop)
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Artist's rendering of Virgin Hyperloop's forthcoming certification center and test track to be built in West Virginia, US, is seen in this handout image obtained by Reuters on October 8, 2020. ((Reuters file photo)
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Updated 09 November 2020

Virgin Hyperloop’s first passengers’ journey into future of transport

  • Virgin Hyperloop executives reached speeds of up to 172 km per hour at the company’s DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • System would offer 46-minute Riyadh to Jeddah travel time

DUBAI: Virgin Hyperloop, the rapid travel system backed by Middle East investors and with big projects planned in the region, has transported its first passengers.

Two executives of the company were the first to ride in a Hyperloop pod in a trial run at its desert test site near Las Vegas, Nevada. They covered the 500-meter run inside a pod in a vacuumed tube at a speed of up to 107 mph in 6.25 seconds.

It was the first trial involving humans after more than 400 unoccupied tests. Hyperloop technology, which would be able to cover the distance between Riyadh and Jeddah in 46 minutes, could eventually transport passengers at up to 600 mph.

The venture is backed by major investor DP World, the UAE ports and logistics company. Its chairman, Sultan Bin Sulayem, who was present at the test, said: “I had the pleasure of seeing history made before my eyes — to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life.”

Hyperloop transports passengers and cargoes by means of magnetic forces inside a vacuum tube running hundreds of miles. It has been presented as a faster and environmentally cleaner alternative to air travel than cars and trains.

Plans are being studied for a Hyperloop network across the Arabian Peninsula that will link big cities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as transporting cargoes rapidly between industrial hubs.

One study, commissioned by Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, is analyzing how a Hyperloop system could spark economic benefit, create jobs, and develop technology skills in the region.

Virgin Hyperloop chief executive, Jay Walder, said: “I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is Hyperloop safe?’ With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can we safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment, but also that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”

Josh Giegel, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, who was one of the passengers, said: “When we started in a garage six years ago, the goal was simple — to transform the way people move.

“Today we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking for a moonshot right here on Earth.”

The gravity forces exerted on the pod were three times that of a plane, but Sara Luchian, the other test passenger and director of passenger experience, told the New York Times: “It was much smoother than I expected. It felt not that much different from accelerating in a sports car.”

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

Updated 28 November 2020

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

  • The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference

GLASGOW: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday said she had “never been more certain” of achieving independence, with Britain’s final departure from EU trading arrangements set to precede key Scottish elections in the months ahead.

The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference that the prospect of a break between Scotland and the rest of the UK has never been closer.

“Independence is in clear sight — and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it,” she said.

Sturgeon and the SNP have argued for a second referendum on Scottish independence since the party’s overwhelming victory among Scottish seats in Britain’s 2019 general election.

Now she hopes that a further resounding win in May elections to the Edinburgh parliament will hand her party a mandate for a second bid to quit the UK.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown that a majority of public opinion in Scotland now supports independence.

The country chose to remain part of the four-nation United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum on the issue.

But Scots later voted by a thumping majority in 2016 to remain in the European Union, a referendum the Leave side won by a narrow margin when taking the rest of Britain into account.

Since then, “we have won a landslide victory in a UK general election and support for independence has risen, it has become the sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” said Sturgeon.

“Who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures? We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources.

“Let us reach out to all Scotland like never before,” she added.

Sturgeon urged her party to “demonstrate ... that Scotland is ready to take our place in the global family of independent nations,” saying it was “now a nation on the brink of making history.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly rebuffed calls from for a another referendum, saying that the 2014 vote settled the question for a generation.

Earlier this month, Scottish independence campaigners seized on comments by the prime minister in which he said the creation of a devolved parliament in Edinburgh had been “a disaster.”

In response Sturgeon said the only way to protect the parliament was “with independence.”

On Thursday, she said a referendum could be held “in the earlier part” of the next parliamentary session.

“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve,” Sturgeon said on Saturday.