If Elon Musk had his way, we would probably all be commuting to work in huge rockets, capable of quickly transporting people around the Earth. The visionary founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX hasn’t been shy about his ambitions, which even extend to rhetoric about establishing human colonies on Mars during his lifetime.
One idea which has been taken more seriously is the ‘hyperloop’, first presented in August 2013 as a way of transporting people along the busy 350 miles (563km) corridor between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just half an hour. By releasing the technology for the idea – involving the all-electric transportation of pods sucked at ultra-high speeds through low-pressure tubes – as ‘open source’, other companies were invited to undertake the research and development involved in bringing it to reality.
Richard Branson’s Virgin has been one such company. Virgin Hyperloop One has undertaken tests in Nevada to try and bring the concept to life, proposing such future possibilities as a journey from London to Edinburgh in just 50 minutes.
However, it may be set to make its debut in the state of Maharashtra, India. Virgin is exploring the possibility of opening a hyperloop between the cities of Mumbai and Pune, a 95km journey it claims would take only 25 minutes – compared to three hours at present – and be capable of over 150 million passenger trips per year.
‘I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century,’ said Branson, as he signed the initial framework agreement alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
‘India is a country that is desperately hungry for infrastructure,’ comments Pranjal Sharma, author of Kranti Nation: India and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. ‘The idea of a hyperloop is not outlandish. Intercity trains are running to full capacity and even the recently privatised airports are reaching peak numbers. In such a situation, a hyperloop connection between cities could be a miracle cure. If the hyperloop can offer affordable, scalable and efficient services, it would transform mobility in India.’
This was published in the April 2018 edition of Geographical magazine.
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