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.”