World’s first commercial Hyperloop system could hurtle passengers around Abu Dhabi at up to 760mph by 2020

The world’s first commercial Hyperloop will be running in Abu Dhabi by 2020 and could hurtle passengers around at speeds of up to 760mph (1,200 kmh). The track – which will be around  six miles (10km) long – will be close to Al Maktoum International Airport on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The plan is to have the first section of the track ready for Expo 2020 – which is being held in Dubai – with plans to eventually extend the network to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, nearly 621 miles (1,000km) away.

Culver City-based company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) says the super-fast system could also be used to carry cargo from the country’s ports and harbours.

The company has ambitions to develop it into a larger network connecting all cities in the Middle East. ‘This agreement creates the basis for the first commercial Hyperloop system in the world here in the Emirates, with the goal of eventually connecting Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, Dubai, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,’ said Bibop Gresta, Chairman of HyperloopTT. ‘With regulatory support, we hope the first section will be operational in time for Expo 2020.’

It has not offered a time frame for when the rest of the track will be completed. The Hyperloop idea was unveiled by Elon Musk in 2013, who at the time said it could take passengers the 380 miles (610km) from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes – half the time it takes a plane. It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum. The tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.

There are now a number of firms vying to bring the technology to life alongside HyperloopTT, including Elon Musk himself and Virgin Hyperloop One.

‘A forward-thinking nation like the UAE is ideal for building the most revolutionary, most efficient, and fastest transportation system in the world,’ said Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HyperloopTT. ‘With this historic agreement in Abu Dhabi, we take a big step towards the world’s first commercial system’, he said. For a few years now, HyperloopTT’s competitor Virgin Hyperloop One has suggested making a connection between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

In February, Virgin unveiled a stunning prototype of the pods that will carry passengers at speeds of up to 760mph (1,200 kmh) when it launches its Hyperloop service in Dubai.

Hyperloop’s low friction design means that passengers will be able to travel the 87 miles (140 km) between the city and neighbouring Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, a journey that takes around 90 minutes by car.

Released in February, the concept pods give a glimpse of the luxurious conditions inside the futuristic transport vehicles, which could be launched as soon as 2020.

Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA), which wants 25 per cent of all journeys to be driverless by 2030, unveiled the hyperloop design at a ceremony in the city as part of its participation in the UAE’s Innovation Month. Virgin’s Hyperloop One offshoot has invested in the multi-billion pound project and is working closely with Dubai’s RTA.

Richard Branson also announced a similar project for Mumbai in February.

The pods themselves boast deluxe interiors, leather seats and high definition screens for displaying information and entertainment. Each pod is designed to travel short and medium distances and can accommodate up to ten passengers. Rob Lloyd, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One said: ‘The UAE and RTA were early supporters of our Hyperloop technology, so it is particularly exciting to be unveiling the Dubai Hyperloop pod with the RTA.

‘Our focus in 2018 would be continuing the close collaboration with RTA to progress to the next phase of the project. ‘Our aim would be to explore the viability of a wider UAE Hyperloop network.’

Hyperloop uses an electromagnetic propulsion system to accelerate levitating pods through a vacuum tube.

This level of speed is achieved by reducing air pressure inside the tube to an equivalent measure experienced at 200,000 feet above sea level. The service is expected to carry around 10,000 passengers per hour in both directions.

In a written statement, His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, director general of the RTA, said: ‘When introduced in future, the hyperloop technology will impact the town planning and the availability of parking spaces.

It will revolutionise people mobility between various destinations in the city, logistical hubs like airports and ports, and shipping patterns. These pods, the first of their kind worldwide, have been designed to travel over short and medium distances on dedicated lanes. They can be coupled in 15 to 20 seconds or detached, depending on the destination of riders, in five seconds. They are fitted with cameras and electro-mechanical technologies to carry out the coupling and detaching processes, and this feature can be activated in-motion’.

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