Billionaire Virgin founder Richard Branson said Tuesday that tickets for his hyperloop transport system will cost no more than that of a high-speed rail fare.
Virgin Hyperloop One, which Branson has been chairman of since December last year, is “very close” to deploying the technology in India, Branson told CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford in Singapore, and is in talks with Dubai and Saudi Arabia about rolling out the technology in the Middle East as well.
Hyperloops are transportation systems that propel pods through low-pressure tubes, aimed at avoiding air resistance and traveling at ultra-fast speeds. The idea is considered to be the brainchild of visionary tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who drew up plans for the technology back in 2013.
Speaking about the price of Hyperloop One fares, Branson said: “It will be no more than a high-speed trainline ticket, and potentially we’ll be able to bring the price down further than that.”
Branson said work will begin on Hyperloop One’s first flagship hyperloop system next year, and will cut travel times from five hours to “just over half an hour.”
“I mean the Indian government have given the go-ahead for Mumbai to Pune,” Branson said. “It’s the road in India, takes five hours to drive down it, it’s a nightmare, lots of accidents.”
“They’ve said we can build a hyperloop right along the side of the road and cut the journey time down to just over half an hour. That will start to be built next year and it will be the first sort of flagship Virgin hyperloop that will be built anywhere in the world.”
Branson said he expected demand for the technology to be “gigantic” once that first project comes to fruition.
“So Dubai, we’re talking to them about connecting the new airport to the old airport,” he said. “In Saudi Arabia, we’re in discussions about a hyperloop going through the desert. It’s a business I think which has got a fantastic future.”
In Dubai, Virgin Hyperloop One has partnered with port operator DP World to launch the technology. It also teamed up with Saudi Arabia earlier this year to bring the hyperloop to the Arab kingdom.
Branson’s Virgin is not alone in the field, and counts Musk’s SpaceX, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Canadian firm TransPod as competitors.