Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) and Virgin Hyperloop One have announced a “development partnership” to build the world’s first long-range hyperloop test track, with a feasibility study underway.
A 35km test and certification track is being considered, which would be part of a new research and development centre and hyperloop manufacturing facility envisaged at King Abdullah Economic City, north of the city of Jeddah.
Hyperloop technology uses depressurised tubes to transport pods of travelling passengers or cargo three times faster than high-speed rail.
The milestone towards hyperloop becoming a reality in the Gulf state was announced last month.
Jay Walder, CEO, Virgin Hyperloop One, said: “A hyperloop system could help enable Saudi Arabia to become a global transportation powerhouse, nurture the nation’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture, and grow an innovative knowledge workforce.”
He added: “I look forward to this collaboration with our visionary partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to turn this technology into a mass transportation solution.”
The project aims to provide opportunities to develop specific hyperloop technologies and local expertise in Saudi Arabia. It will also support the development of the development of localised hyperloop supply chains in the kingdom.
Hyperloop technology in the region could drastically reduce journey times for passengers and freight across Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East, with speeds of up to 1,080 km per hour.
The journey from Riyadh to Jeddah could be slashed from more than 10 hours to 76 minutes, while travel from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi would take just 48 minutes instead of more than 8.5 hours.
Mohanud A Helal, secretary general of the ECA, commented: “Technology transfer and high-tech job creation opportunities that this relationship will bring are fundamental to our progress as a nation and our efforts to create opportunities for our bright young people.”
He added: “Having hyperloop at King Abdullah Economic City is going to act as a catalyst for a Saudi Silicon Valley effect and galvanize our software development, high technology research, and manufacturing industries.”
The latest development comes after DP World announced a partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One last year to develop the technology for freight transport. The new service would aim to provide low cost, high speed shipping for on-demand goods.
Earlier this month, Walder told Arabian Business that human rides on the hyperloop would happen “sooner than you’d think”. He added: “Obviously, we know that this is the question that’s on everybody’s tongue. It’s not far away.”
However, Walder declined to give a more specific timeline for the first human testing of the system.