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By: Jack Ball

A senior member of California-based Virgin Hyperloop One has said Saudi Arabian citizens can expect to use hyperloop by the end of next year, local media claim.

Speaking to Okaz and the Saudi Gazette, Colin Rice, deputy chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One in the Gulf, said that travel time between Riyadh and the kingdom’s planned 334km² Qiddiya entertainment gigaproject funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) will take just seven minutes.

Meanwhile, travel between the Saudi capital and Jeddah will reportedly not exceed 50 minutes. It currently takes roughly 110 minutes by air to travel between the two cities.

Rice told the English-language Saudi Gazette that tickets and service charges will cost less than airfare, and will be more similar to those for buses or trains.

He reportedly said the group’s transport system will not only “contribute to creating thousands of high-value job opportunities within the first year since its launch”, but that technical specifications accompanying the system will require cooperation with “many effective, big authorities in various sectors”. He said the group was keen to transfer hyperloop technology to Saudi Arabia.

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.

Earlier this month, US Secretary for Transport, Elaine Chao, announced the formation of a council to explore the prospect of commercialising the ultra-high speed transport technology.

Virgin Hyperloop One, which is chaired by Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and chief executive officer at DP World, said the move represented the “culmination of months of work at the federal, state, and local level”.