Richard Branson-backed startup Virgin Hyperloop One is evaluating Missouri as a possible location for a Hyperloop line. A feasibility study was just completed on a route connecting Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis. While the results of the study have not been published in full, Virgin Hyperloop One claims they show the route to be economically feasible.
Conducted by infrastructure company Black & Veatch, the study looked at the social impact, regulatory issues, and advantages of different rights of way and station locations for a Hyperloop paralleling the current I-70 highway, a Virgin Hyperloop One press release said. Conveniently for the startup, the results were encouraging.
Originally conceived by Elon Musk, the Hyperloop concept uses pods running in sealed tubes to achieve very high speeds. Virgin Hyperloop One claims its system could reduce travel time between St. Louis and Kansas City from three and a half hours to 28 minutes. Trips from either St. Louis or Kansas City to Columbia would take just 15 minutes, compared to nearly two hours today, the company said.
The cost of a Hyperloop ticket would also be less than the price of gas for the same trip, Virgin Hyperloop One claims, adding that a Hyperloop would lead to cost savings in other areas. Missouri residents would save $410 million per year from spending less time on the road, while an expected reduction in crashes on I-70 would save $91 million per year, the company said.
Virgin Hyperloop One is still a for-profit business, and it sees plenty of revenue potential in Missouri. It expects an 80-percent increase in riderships between Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis. The company also claims its linear-infrastructure costs would be 40 percent lower than a high-speed rail system, while offering higher speeds.
While Virgin Hyperloop One noted that Colorado and Ohio are conducting feasibility studies, with Texas set to start the process as well, most of its other development efforts are concentrated outside the United States. The company has proposed a "national network" for India and plans to build a test track there. It has also conducted discussions in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the latter subject to conflicting reports.
The Financial Times recently reported that Virgin Hyperloop One's negotiations with the Saudi government were terminated after Richard Branson spoke out against the alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country. But CNBC reports that negotiations remain on track, and that a deal could be signed during a Saudi investment conference Oct. 23-25.