Dubai: DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator, said on Sunday that it would formally partner with Virgin Hyperloop One to build ultra high-speed cargo delivery systems around the world.
DP World is already the largest investor in Virgin Hyperloop One, occupying two board seats and participating in the US-based company’s latest $50 million funding round.
The newly branded company, named DP World Cargospeed, will design a hyperloop system to deliver freight from point to point, at a top speed of 1,200 kph.
Hyperloop is a futuristic mode of vacuum tube-based transport, resembling a train but travelling at the speed of a jet aircraft.
According to Virgin Hyperloop One, the cargo routes will be developed in tandem with its passenger routes, meaning that the first working system will be operational by 2025 at the earliest.
The only difference will be the pod, which will be customised to accommodate pallets, instead of people.
The announcement was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
He was joined by billionaire Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur who is chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, and Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, the chairman and CEO of DP World.
Branson accompanied the executive management team to a number of meetings in Dubai on Sunday, including with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and a meeting with Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports.
A senior Virgin Hyperloop One executive told Gulf News that a concrete arrangement with the RTA to determine a route for passenger transport was expected in the coming weeks.
The team is due in Abu Dhabi on Monday to meet with officials there.
Moving cargo at jets peeds
In his opening remarks at the announcement, Bin Sulayem said: ”It’s our pleasure to announce that DP World will work together with Virgin Hyperloop One to transport cargo around the world at jet speeds, for the cost of trucking.”
Branson, for his part, said that he liked being involved in cutting-edge things, and “Dubai is at the cutting edge of everything.”
Details were scant at the glamorous announcement, however, with no actual routes confirmed.
"We see interest around the region, and the world," said Rob Lloyd, chief executive of Virgin Hyperloop One.
$300 million funding
The company has to date raised almost $300 million in funding.
Lloyd told Gulf News in a February interview that the UAE was among the most likely country to be selected for the first fully-fledged passenger hyperloop transportation system, depsite the company agreeing to build the first test route in India earlier this year.
Lloyd’s top executive in the region, Harj Dhaliwal, managing director for the Middle East and India, confirmed that this was still the case in an interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of Sunday’s event.
“It’s absolutely still a frontrunner, as far as we’re concerned,” Dhaliwal said.
“We had extremely positive meetings with the RTA today, talking about scoping out phase two, and within the next few weeks we expect to come to a concrete arrangement,” he added.
Phase two refers to the next level of detail for the still untested technology, including a specific route, and a more thorough feasibility study.