Hyperloop a 'catalyst' for change in Saudi Arabia, says Crown Prince

Virgin Hyperloop said it could cut travel time between Riyadh and Jeddah from 10 hours to down to 76 minutes
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pictured with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Tue 03 Apr 2018 11:42 AM

The 700-mph hyperloop will serve as a “catalyst” for technological change in Saudi Arabia, according to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Mohammed’s comments came during a visit to the Virgin Galactic base in the Mojave Desert of California, where he met with Virgin Hyperloop One chairman Sir Richard Branson and was shown a Hyperloop ‘pod’ 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 ‘Vision 2030’ Hyperloop pod 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.

Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries that have begun feasibility studies with the tech start-up. According to the company, if the Hyperloop reaches its theoretical speed, the 10-hour trip between Riyadh and Jeddah would be cut down to 76 minutes.

According to Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd, Prince Mohammed’s visit and meeting with the Hyperloop team will “kick off the next phase that will make [Virgin Hyperloop One] a reality in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Virgin Hyperloop is currently exploring possible sites for developing the technology, including Dubai.

Virgin Galactic visit

Additionally, Prince Mohammed toured the Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic spaceport, where he inspected progress on a new spacecraft and reportedly discussed ways to boost Saudi Arabia’s technology sector.

In October, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on Thursday announced that it would invest $1 billion in Virgin Galactic, a move that came one month after Branson’s announcement that he would invest in the kingdom’s Red Sea project that aims to turn 50 Saudi islands into luxury resorts.

The Crown Prince’s visit to Virgin Hyperloop come as the company is embroiled in turmoil, with three directors replaced and a fourth, Russian billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov arrested in Russia on charges of fraud and embezzlement not related to his work with the tech company.

Hyperloop board changes

On Monday, an updated company website showed that former Obama administration advisor Jim Messina, former Morgan Stanley executive Jim Rosenthal and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis had all stepped down from the 10-member board.

Among the replacements listed is Yuvraj Narayan, the chief financial officer of DP World. Bloomberg quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying that the changes occurred several weeks ago.

For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Last Updated: Tue 03 Apr 2018 12:17 PM GST

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.