Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, will meet the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday to discuss the status of the ambitious hyperloop project.
“When there is a change in administration and you have a big project going on, it is important to have a courtesy call. Uddhav Thackeray and the various coalition people that he has around them need to meet people who are doing big projects or those wanting to do big projects in their State,” said Branson at an event in Mumbai.
The Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project has been accorded infrastructure status. Using hyperloop technology, Wakad area in Pune will be connected with BKC in suburban Mumbai. The passenger trip is expected to be completed in 25 minutes.
“One of the things we need to make very clear, because there has been some misreporting and political ramblings is that there is no money expected from the government at all...it is all going to be private money. The public will benefit massively from the service,” Branson added.
On the aviation business, Virgin Atlantic, owned by the Virgin Group is operating direct flights between Mumbai, Delhi and London. This is the third time that Virgin Atlantic started direct operations between the two cities, after shutting down operations previously due to mounting losses. “This is third time lucky, and the last time...not going to have a fourth time,” Branson said.
Currently, 80 per cent of the passengers travel to the UK and 20 per cent to extended networks. In the past five years, the Mumbai market has grown by 25 per cent and that gives them the confidence that they will succeed this time. “After the UK and the US, by next year, India will be our third-largest market,” he added.
Manchester is Virgin Atlantic’s hub in the north. Jet Airways used to briefly fly to Manchester. Juha Jarvinen, EVP, Commercial, Virgin Atlantic said, “With Manchester, we connect with the US and Europe, hence, Manchester-India is a market we are exploring, however, it was not confirmed yet.”
In 2012, Branson had said that he was interested in a stake in Indian Airlines. When asked about his plans for investments in Air India, he said he was not keen to make an investment into the State-run airline at the moment.
Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that moves freight and people. Passengers or cargo are loaded into the hyperloop vehicle and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The vehicle floats above the track using magnetic levitation. It glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. The systems will be built on columns or tunnelled below ground to avoid dangerous crossings and other obstacles.