Highlights

  • Virgin Hyperloop One will build a link between the cities of Pune and Mumbai  
  • The rapid transportation route will link the two cities in a 25-minute journey 
  • Richard Branson signed an agreement in Mumbai for the hyperloop framework 
  • Virgin claims the route will support 150 million passenger trips per year

If you thought the Mumbai-Pune expressway was the best thing that could ever happen in Maharashtra, prepare to have your expectations completely blown away. Because five to seven years from now, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson plans to inaugurate a hyperloop linking the two cities that will cut down travel time to 25 minutes, or less. The icing on the cake is that you won’t have to break a bank for the privilege.

British billionaire Richard Branson has announced plans to build a high-speed shuttle in India that could potentially revolutionize travel in the country.

The proposed hyperloop route between Mumbai and Pune, two major cities in the western state of Maharashtra, would reduce travel time from over three hours by train to just 25 minutes, according to a Virgin press release.

Branson, co-founder of the British multinational conglomerate, signed a preliminary agreement with Maharashtra’s government on Sunday, the Press Trust of India reports. The project will now undergo an extensive feasibility study.

“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 in the press release. “The Pune-Mumbai route is an ideal first corridor as part of a national hyperloop network that will dramatically reduce travel times between most of India’s major cities to under two hours.”

The hyperloop will also connect passengers to the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, which is being built near Mumbai. Branson estimated that the shuttle would support 150 million passenger trips per year and “create a thriving, competitive megaregion.”

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“Virgin Hyperloop One will save thousands of lives by providing connectivity, creating jobs and transforming airports. This will be similar to trains opening up connectivity in India in the last century,” he said.

Hyperloop has the capability of going up to 1,000 km an hour, but on this route, it would be about 350 km. The journey to Pune would take about 14-25 minutes at 350 kmph, which now takes about 3.5 hours. Later in time, the speed would go up to 600-1,000 kmph.

The cost of building a hyperloop is much less than that of building a high-speed railway line, he added.

Low price

“We are not pricing this for the wealthy, but it will be for the masses. It’s quite possible that India would be the first,” Branson said, adding the system costs about hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

The present route will link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport and Mumbai, eventually supporting 150-million passenger trips annually, and saving more than 90 million hours of travel time. Cities in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are next in line.

The project, which will be executed by a public-private partnership, will involve Indian investors, IT companies and the best brains in India.

This route could result in a $55 billion (3,50,000 crore) socio-economic benefits (time savings, emissions and accident reduction, operational cost savings) over 30 years of operation, according to a pre-feasibility study by Virgin Hyperloop One.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk first published a white paper outlining his vision for a vacuum-based, high-speed, underground shuttle system, or hyperloop, in 2013. Others picked up on the idea. Last October, Virgin partnered with Hyperloop One, a U.S. company attempting to build a full-system hyperloop.

The Virgin Hyperloop One project aims to “move people and things at airline speeds on the ground,” according to Virgin. Passengers and cargo would be loaded into pods, which would then be propelled through a low-pressure tube. Magnetic levitation would lift the pods above their tracks. Low aerodynamic drag would allow the pods to travel extraordinarily fast.

A functioning hyperloop would carry passengers at a top speed of 670 miles per hour, more than 10 times the speed of traditional rail services, according to a Virgin Hyperloop One frequently-asked-questions page. For passengers, it would feel like riding in a plane, the company claims.

In addition to India, the Virgin Hyperloop One team has been working on planned routes in the Middle East, Europe, Canada and the United States. They say their goal is to have operational systems running by 2021.

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