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Tue 23 Oct 2018 09:13 AM

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Sir Richard Branson steps down as Virgin Hyperloop One chairman

Entrepreneur Elon Musk says LA Hyperloop tunnel to be unveiled December 10

Sir Richard Branson steps down as Virgin Hyperloop One chairman
Sir Richard Branson (centre) pictured with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of DP World at the launch of DP World Cargospeed.

Sir Richard Branson stepped down from Virgin Hyperloop One’s board of directors, saying the company "needs a more hands-on chairman."

Branson's seat on the board will go to another Virgin Group executive.

Virgin Hyperloop One (VH1), in a statement, said Branson made the decision was made based on the increased commitment of time the position now requires.

“Sir Richard played a significant role in the growth and development of the company,” the statement said.

“He will remain a significant supporter of VH1. The company is in a strong position and therefore it is time for a new full time chairman to lead the next chapter of VH1.”

Branson said it was the first time in 20 years that he took on a chairman’s role “to help Virgin Hyperloop One through a transitional period”.

“We have since secured key agreements in India, Spain and are working with a number of US States to further develop this exciting technology,” he said.

“At this stage in the company’s evolution, I feel it needs a more hands-on Chair, who can focus on the business and these opportunities. It will be difficult for me to fulfill that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many business within the Virgin Group.”

A hyperloop is a shuttle pod that travels on magnetic rails, somewhat like a train, but which runs in a tube with little or no air. In theory, hyperloops could allow travel faster than the speed of sound.

Dubai’s DP World Group invested in the concept a year before Branson’s  Virgin Group joined Hyperloop One project.

The global ports company signed an agreement in 2016 to study the possibility of using Hyperloop at Jebel Ali port.

In April this year, DP World and Virgin Hyperloop One created DP World Cargospeed, a global firm that will build high-speed cargo delivery systems using Hyperloop's tube-based technology to deliver goods and link existing road, rail and air transport infrastructure.

Virgin Hyperloop One has been testing in Nevada and opened a research centre in southern Spain.

Musk's plans

Elon Musk, meanwhile, announced that this Hyperloop ultra high-speed transport system will be unveiled in Los Angeles in early December with free test rides to the public.

"The first tunnel is almost done," Musk said on Twitter late Sunday night. "Opens Dec 10."

Responding to comments on Twitter, Musk said there would be an opening event that night and "free rides for the public next day."

Musk's venture, "The Boring Company," has been pushing the underground system as a futuristic concept that could radically speed transport within and between cities.

In another tweeted response, Musk said the test tunnel has a top speed of 155 miles per hour (250 kilometres).

Supporters of the technology have discussed a vision where a trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco might take 30 minutes instead of five or six hours.

In a presentation in Los Angeles in May, Musk said vehicles could reach downtown LA from its international airport in under 10 minutes, with a long-term objective of reaching over 300 miles an hour.

Hyperloop is one of Musk's envelope-pushing ventures, along with SpaceX and Tesla Motors. Shares of Tesla have fallen more than 30 percent since August 7, when he infamously tweeted that he had funding lined up to take Tesla private.

He subsequently paid a $20 million fine to settle after the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused the entrepreneur of fraud.

*With AFP

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