We talk to an industry expert for insights on the future of high-speed travel in India and also understand Virgin Hyperloop’s contribution in this field.
How does the company aim to change the face of people mobility in India?
There is a real need for innovative transportation solutions. There has not been a new mode of transportation in over 100 years. Existing solutions are not enough to tackle the congestion choking some of India’s most vibrant cities. Traffic jams in just four Indian cities cost $22 billion a year, where travellers spend an average of 1.5 hours more on their daily commutes than their counterparts in other Asian cities during peak traffic times.
Tackling urban transport challenges is both an existential question for India, and an opportunity closely tied to its fundamental strengths – booming cities, a vibrant young workforce, and robust economic growth. Virgin Hyperloop aims to satisfy India’s search for ultra-fast, affordable, safe, and sustainable mass transport that also delivers productivity gains to citizens.
Tell us about the upcoming projects that Virgin Hyperloop has set for the Indian market?
Given our holistic and long-term investment commitment to India, we have several plans in the pipeline. Through the feasibility study undertaken with the Bangalore International Airport, we are evaluating potential hyperloop routes connecting to and from Kempegowda International Airport based on their technical and economic viability.
The proposed Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project, which connects the two cities in under 30 minutes, instead of the three-plus hours via road will be the largest privately funded transport infrastructure project in the country. The constant dialogue with the state government since the onset of the pandemic has been immensely helpful and we look forward to working with the administration to progress this project as the situation improves.
In addition, we have also signed an MoU with the Punjab Transport Department in December 2019 and hope to expand on our relationship with the state as we continue exploring opportunities in northern India. We see enormous potential to connect the entire subcontinent and look forward to discussions with other states as well.
We are also encouraged by steps taken by the Government of India to set up a high-level panel to explore the technological and commercial viability of our system in the Indian context. This effort will guide and support the development of hyperloop projects across India.
Can you elaborate on the design features of how the hyperloop system would look like for passengers?
Designing a completely new mode of transportation in over 100 years has been a huge opportunity as well as a responsibility for Virgin Hyperloop. The technology has enabled us to reimagine passenger experience that is warmer, friendlier, more welcoming, and human-centric.
The experience will be very distinctive to Virgin Hyperloop, taking the best aspects from aviation, rail, automotive as well as hospitality services within a single mode of transportation. The aesthetics, dynamic lighting, and use of textures will reflect optimism and freshness along with sustainability.
A key pillar of Virgin Hyperloop’s passenger experience is accessibility, ensuring that this new form of transportation will expand opportunities for the masses.
Virgin Hyperloop passenger experience:
How does the company aim to tackle the obstacles created by Covid-19 in the field of travel?
This crisis has made it obvious that travel is a huge part of our lives. Travel is not going away, and face-to-face interactions are important – if they were not important, we would not be feeling this economic downturn.
If hyperloop were running commercially, we would be working in safe mode just like any other mass transit. We do have the opportunity to learn from this experience and apply these learnings in a post-Covid world to our vehicles. Our team is looking into everything from more extensive air filtration systems to antimicrobials on transportation equipment.
Additionally, the system is autonomous and schedules pods on demand. In a similar crisis, we could immediately space out passengers on our system. As a new mode, we can start from scratch and figure out the best way forward.
What according to you is the future of hyperloop technology in India?
We envision a future where India becomes not only an early adopter of hyperloop technology but also a global supply hub to support the development of projects domestically and internationally.
Citizens will travel between cities as though they are metro stops, and they will be able to access opportunities offered by major metropolises without compromising on the quality of life. Tier 1 cities will evolve and thrive while over-strained congested cities will sprawl out to satellite cities enabled by ultrahigh-speed transport.
As the leader in the industry, governments are looking to us as a trusted partner to advise on this technology sector. We are working with governments and regulatory authorities across the world to support the development of global safety and industry standards for the new hyperloop category.
In parallel with the work ongoing with regulatory and safety bodies, we have proposed a two-phased process for the development of a hyperloop in India.
The first of which is the building, commissioning, testing, and certification of a full-scale demonstration track in the country. The successful testing and certification of this phase would pave way for the development of commercial projects for passenger and freight transport. We have charted out a path for India to leap forward in deploying the first mass transit solution in over 100 years and we look forward to making progress on our landmark projects here.