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Sun 13 Mar 2016 09:10 AM

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Rival firms in race to bring Hyperloop to the UAE

Supersonic system could cut journey time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to eight minutes

Rival firms in race to bring Hyperloop to the UAE

Two rival transport companies are battling it out to become the first to introduce the ‘Hyperloop’-branded bullet train to the UAE.

US-based firms Hyperloop Technologies and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have separately unveiled their plans for a super-high-speed transport network in the UAE in recent weeks.

The trademarked Hyperloop technology is the brainchild of SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Still under development, it is a tube-based transport system that can move compartments or ‘pods’ of people to and from their destination at speeds of up to 1,220 kilometres per hour. This is just less than the speed of sound (1, 235 km/h).

The system could cut journey times between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to between eight and 15 minutes.

Because the transit tube is depressurised, the carriages ‘levitate’ along the route meaning an electric motor is only required for some of the journey and the network can depend to a large extent on solar energy or other forms of renewable power.

Both the companies have been separately working to develop plans for Hyperloop networks in locations across the world.

At a conference backed by the Minister of Infrastructure Development Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi last month, Dirk Alhlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said his company had held discussions with the UAE government over the possibility of building a Hyperloop route between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and possibly in other locations across the GCC. He declined to reveal to delegates what stage these talks were at, but the director-general of the Federal Transport Authority, Abdullah Salem Alkathiri, told Arabian Business after the event that the government welcomed the idea ‘in principle’.

Ahlborn said: “Innovation is clearly changing transportation. The UAE is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of sustainability and innovation and this makes it an ideal candidate to introduce an exciting new mode of transport.”

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is already building the first Hyperloop test track between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which is expected to be complete by the end of the first quarter this year. Hyperloop founder Elon Musk’s own test track is planned for Texas this summer.

And, this week, the company announced it had signed an agreement with Slovakian government officials to explore options for building Hyperloop routes connecting Bratislava with Vienna, Austria and Budapest.

The deal is significant, as it makes Slovakia the first government to officially commit to exploring the possibility of a local Hyperloop system. However, the deal does not oblige the Slovakian government to build Hyperloop once feasibility studies have been conducted.

Meanwhile, Hyperloop Technologies CEO Rob Lloyd told the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai this week that he envisaged the UAE as being one of the first three locations where the Hyperloop model would become operational.

“We would expect that the history of innovation within this region could make – perhaps – Dubai and the UAE one of the first places where Hyperloop comes into production,” said Lloyd.

“Our goal in the next three years is to select the top three [places] in the world where we can build Hyperloop and demonstrate its capabilities.

“We’ll be working with innovative companies, innovative regulators, and innovative governments to try a make that a reality. Our dream would be that it happens here [in the UAE], and we’ll see if we can make that dream come true.”

Lloyd said Hyperloop would enable passengers to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 15 minutes, and carry up to 40 people in a single capsule.

“Hyperloop is the new broadband of transportation,” he told delegates.

“It’s a high-speed network that allows us to achieve speeds that were perhaps never thought possible, as we apply existing science in a very different way.”

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