Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is making moves to bring a Hyperloop system to Riyadh
The system could create a route between the capital Riyadh and the major hub of Jeddah, which could drastically reduce travel time between the regions
By Rosie Perper
Saudi Arabia’s millennial Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met with Richard Branson to discuss bringing a high-speed Hyperloop transit system to Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince and several other members of Saudi Arabia’s defence ministry met at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California to speak with the billionaire Branson and his Virgin Galactic Company, which is developing vehicles for commercial space travel, and discuss potential partnerships with Saudi Arabia.
The two also touted the idea of developing a high-speed Hyperloop transit system that could carry passengers between the capital city of Riyadh and the major commercial hub of Jeddah, in 76 minutes.
Currently, travel time between the two cities is just over 10 hours by current public-transport methods.
Direct flights take roughly 95 minutes.
The Crown Prince unveiled the Vision 2030 Hyperloop Pod, illustrating the cooperation between the Kingdom and Virgin as part of the Prince’s Vision 2030 goal to modernise transport systems.
“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 from Virgin Hyperloop.
The company asserted that the Hyperloop system could position Saudi Arabia as a “gateway to three continents.”
The Hyperloop system could outpace traditional rail services
Hyperloop is a high-speed transit system first proposed by Elon Musk in 2013. The goal of the system is to send pods full of passengers through tubes at extremely high speeds.
Hyperloop One was incorporated in 2014 and raised upwards of US$160 million from global investors, including Dubai-based DP World. In 2016, the company announced a it was exploring building the transport method in the United Arab Emirates and began mapping out potential routes.
Branson, who founded Virgin Group and is a prolific entrepreneur, invested in the company in 2017, leading to a name change and expansion of services.
The system requires tunnel networks to be built from scratch, leading Musk to create the Boring Company, a startup that is digging underground tunnels that could eventually be used to create vast transport networks.
Musk recently criticised the bureaucratic process required to get such a project off the ground in the US, but countries like Saudi Arabia may ultimately be a better fit, in terms of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 plans.
Under that initiative, the Crown Prince plans to enhance the country’s transport systems and improve infrastructure “internally and across borders,” with the help of global partners.