Riyadh to Jeddah in 76 minutes: Virgin's 700 mph Hyperloop could make Saudi Arabia debut

Riyadh to Jeddah in 76 minutes: Virgin's 700 mph Hyperloop could make Saudi Arabia debut
Virgin's Hyperloop 700 mph transportation system could make its debut in Saudi Arabia, following Mohammad bin Salman's visit to the test site near Las Vegas.
2 min read
03 April, 2018
Virgin's Hyperloop is being tested in the Nevada desert [Getty]
The 700 mph Virgin Hyperloop transport system putting airline speed on the ground could make its debut in Saudi Arabia, potentially cutting the journey time from Riyadh to Jeddah from 10 hours to 76 minutes.

The magnetically-propelled high-speed pods – the brainchild of Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and backed by Sir Richard Branson – will see passengers and cargo loaded into a pod, and accelerated gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds.

The near supersonic system could have its first run in Saudi Arabia, serving as a "catalyst" for technological change in the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said on Monday, during a visit to the Nevada desert test track.

Virgin owner and Hyperloop chairman Branson unveiled a pod there, painted in the colours of the Saudi flag.

"Hyperloop is the catalyst to enable all fourth-generation technologies to flourish in the kingdom while creating a vibrant society and thriving economy through visionary cities and high-tech clusters," Prince Mohammed said in a statement.

The 32-year-old heir and de facto ruler is touring the US in his first official visit state-side, where he has brushed shoulders with Silicon Valley CEOs and billionaire businessmen to attract investment to his ambitious Vision 2030 project that aims to modernise and diversify the kingdom away from oil.

This includes the Red Sea tourism project, with Branson in October becoming the first international investor to publically commit to the initiative aimed at turning 50 islands of Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast into luxury destinations.

Later that month, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund announced a $1 billion investment in Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Saudi Arabia is among a handful of countries that have entered into feasibility studies with the Hyperloop tech startup.

The Vision 2030 pod unveiled on Monday is the same as the Virgin Hyperloop One that has been tested by the company at a facility near Las Vegas, which reached speeds of 240 mph during a test in December.

Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd said MbS's visit and talks "kick off the next phase that will make [Virgin Hyperloop One] a reality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

As far as futuristic city visions go, however, the Gulf is full of them – and a poor track record of completing them.

Saudi Arabia's NEOM megacity, to be twice the size of Qatar and run by robots, is the latest to be touted by the influential prince but has yet to receive substantial foreign investment.