Richard Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One says it plans to build a futuristic rapid transportation system or Hyperloop that would traverse from Mumbai to Pune in 25-minutes. A drive to Pune would take at least 3 hours.
“I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century,” Richard Branson said in a statement.
The concept of Hyperloop, though, is revolutionary as it promises to cut travel time manifold. But there is a great deal of obscurity regarding the cost of building it, its environmental impact, and if travelling at such high speeds will affect commuters’ health. But the concept has got a lot of traction since Elon Musk’s SpaceX published a white paper in 2013.
Musk writes in the paper that disappointment over an approved "high speed rail " project in California compelled him to think of Hyperloop—as a fifth mode of transportation after planes, trains, cars, and boats. Rocket pioneer Robert Goddard proposed a vacuum train similar to the concept in 1909.
Elon Musk's own company, The Boring Company, was recently issued a permit by Washington, D.C. to do preparatory and excavation work examining the feasibility of a Hyperloop network under the city, as per reports.
The Los Angeles, California-based Virgin Hyperloop One, is one of the companies working on the technology. Founded in 2014, the company is backed by Branson. Virgin Hyperloop One envisions people-carrying pods that travel through a vacuumised tube.
Virgin Hyperloop One has signed a preliminary agreement with the government of Maharashtra. The company says it will conduct a “six-month in-depth feasibility study” to analyse and define the route, cost and funding of the project based on the findings of a 2017 pre-feasibility study. A demonstration track would be built two to three years from the signing of the final agreement, while in the second phase the company will aim to complete construction of the Pune to Mumbai route in five to seven years.
Virgin’s is not the only Hyperloop project proposed in India. In September last year, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a competing firm, signed a memorandum of understanding with Andhra Pradesh to develop a Hyperloop route between the cities of Amaravati and Vijayawada.
But the economic feasibility of such projects is unclear—would it be cheaper than a flight? Acquisition of land required is another challenge.
Or in other words, you may have wait for far more than 25 minutes to catch that Hyperloop pod.