At a press conference attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it was announced that the potential cargo operations of Virgin Hyperloop has been re-branded as DP World Cargo Speed.
Group chairman and CEO of DP World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, said that DP World was the largest single investor in Virgin Hyperloop, because the system has the potential to carry goods at the speed of air freight, but at the cost of a truck.
Sulayem says the system, a vaccum-sealed tube in which a ‘pod’ is accelerated to 700 kph by magnets, would help "shape the future of global logistics".
“With this system you can move any cargo around the world in less than 14 hours, whether you are in China or in the North Pole, it will not take more than 14 hours," Sulayem said, but he added that DP World Cargospeed would not be building cargo-only Hyperloop routes within the UAE or elsewhere.
“We want to find ways of carrying goods within the pods being used by passengers,” he said. Essentially, DP World CargoSpeed will be to Virgin Hyperloop what Emirates SkyCargo is to Emirates Airline, which carries bellyhold air freight aboard its passenger aircraft.
Virgin Hyperloop One board chairman Sir Richard Branson said the hyperloop could also be used to transport passengers between two airports in minutes, saving time by avoiding traffic and without the need to go through customs or immigration again.
“Suddenly, those two airports effectively become one airport,” he said. Through the partnership with DP World CargoSpeed, Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport would also benefit from one another’s strong air cargo operations.
Suddenly, goods offloaded at DXB could reach Jebel Ali Freezone or Dubai Industrial Park within minutes rather than hours. But, Sulayem emphasised that there are no current plans to build a Hyperloop network in the UAE.
“We are investing in this technology for its uses in other markets where hinterland infrastructure is inadequate for port operations,” he said. “In India, we plan to establish a Hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune.”
Branson added that the Hyperloop linking the two cities will hopefully be inaugurated in the next five to ten years, and that travel time between the two cities would be cut to 25 minutes, or less.
It could be a lot longer before a Hyperloop system is introduced in the UAE. While the country is known for its ability to roll-out major infrastrucrure projects quickly (the Dubai Metro’s Red Line with 29 stations was built in just four years), the RTA has cautioned that the Hyperloop is a different matter altogether.
"The system is still under the process of research and development, and RTA is closely following the developments in this technology, and will study several options for determining the route which will be announced in the future."
The RTA stressed that projects of this magnitude and complexity "must be preceded by careful planning and engineering studies", adding that feasibility studies must first take place to reduce the potential risks and maximise the benefit of the project.