Harj Dhaliwal, managing director for the Middle East and India at Los Angeles-based ultra-high-speed transport technology firm Virgin Hyperloop One – backed by Dubai port operator DP World – confirmed that the company had floated a proposal with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Transport for a “specific route” in the kingdom.
“We are very heavily engaged with government entities in Saudi Arabia,” Dhaliwal said in conversation with Construction Week during its latest weekly podcast episode.
“We have a proposal with the Ministry of Transport right now on a specific route,” he added.
“I don’t really want to go into those routes because I think it’s for the Ministry of Transport to make that announcement when they’re ready to make that announcement.”
His comments came six months after Virgin Hyperloop One downplayed reports by the Financial Times that the kingdom had scrapped plans to build an ultra-high-speed transport network in the kingdom, as reported exclusively by Construction Week last October.
“We have a very clear vision for the GCC, and it’s a connected vision,” Dhaliwal explained during the podcast recording.
“[In terms of] big cities like Neom [in Saudi], we have had some discussions with them," Dhaliwal added, when pushed on where the group’s other ongoing conversation in the kingdom currently stand.
"We are going to reignite those.
“I think there has been a period where we needed to focus on other areas. But we now have the opportunity and the team in place here that is going to go back and engage with a much more direct and focused approach.”
Virgin Hyperloop One’s work in the GCC is not limited to Saudi Arabia.
It completed a feasibility study with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in 2017 and progress has continued on the project since then.
The GCC is largely ahead of the pack globally when it comes to commercialising hyperloop technology, which uses electromagnetic propulsion to accelerate pods through a low-pressure tube.
The UAE plans to build the world’s first commercial hyperloop system in Abu Dhabi, with construction set to start on Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ planned network in Q3 2019. The project is now past the feasibility stage, according to an announcement by the Bibop Gresta-led firm in January 2019.