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Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop Has Plans to Turn This 3 Hour Airport Trip Into a Cakewalk

February 19, 2018, 12:06 PM UTC

British tycoon Richard Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One is proposing to build a super-fast transportation system in India that would connect the city of Pune with the planned new airport in Mumbai in 25 minutes, saving about three hours.

The founder of Virgin Group signed a preliminary agreement on Sunday in Mumbai for a broad hyperloop framework, the company said in a statement. A demonstration track will be built in two to three years from the signing of the final agreement, while the second phase will aim to complete construction of the full Pune-Mumbai route in five to seven years.

Branson is touting the tube-based transportation system — first theorized in 2013 by billionaire Elon Musk — to help address the infrastructure bottlenecks India is struggling with amid rapid urbanization. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is plowing about 8.6 trillion rupees ($133 billion) to upgrade the nation’s rail networks and last year kicked off a plan to build a 316-mile bullet train line linking the commercial hubs of Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project could result in $55 billion in socio-economic benefits over 30 years of operation, according to an initial study by Virgin Hyperloop One.

“I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century,” Branson said. “The Pune-Mumbai route is an ideal first corridor as part of a national hyperloop network.”

Virgin Hyperloop One, which has been testing in Nevada with speeds reaching 240 miles an hour, is working to meet a goal of having three production systems in service by 2021, according to its website. The startup is working on technology that would use magnetic levitation in low-pressure tubes to transport people and goods at airplane-like speeds.