By Prarthana Mitra
Elon Musk’s ambitious high-speed mass transportation Hyperloop system is set to make a splash in India.
The construction of a 15-km test track between Mumbai and Pune is slated to begin by December reducing the commute between India’s financial capital and the state’s cultural capital to 20 minutes. According to Mint, Richard Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One is conducting a feasibility study in collaboration with the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA), and sponsoring Rs 3000 crore for the project.
The report of the study will be ready by November.
Futuristic transport is coming to India
The project, already operational on a limited scale in Nevada, is poised to disrupt transportation system with magnetically driven pods locomoting through a vacuum tube. It is expected to transport both freight and passengers to and from terminals.
The test track in India will be built in Wakad in Pimpri-Chinchwad situated to the north of Pune, to Gahunje in Mumbai.
In February, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Virgin Hyperloop One to construct the Mumbai-Pune track. Visiting the Nevada test site in June, he said that the average inter-city traveller in India will be able to avail and afford the system by 2024.
Although the construction wasn’t slated to begin before 2019, Kaustubh Dhavse, officer on special duty to Fadnavis, spoke to Mint this week, saying, “Work (on the test track) will start by end of this year.” A pre-feasibility study conducted earlier this year observed Mumbai and Pune as the most optimal terminal points.
“It won’t take a long time to build because the construction is simple. But we need to build a regulatory framework that cuts across various ministries and is beyond the purview of the state government,” said Dhavse, adding, “The ministry of civil aviation, the railways ministry—all of these need to be involved. An interdepartmental panel for the hyperloop has been constituted,” to take stock of the cost for commercial rollout, and certifications required for human trials.
Although the far is priced steeply abroad, Dhavse believes that when it becomes commercial, the cost of Mumbai-Pune hyperloop commutes would be comparable to road or rail alternatives.
Looking forward to faster transit
A few are critical and spectical about the project, putting it down as a bid to attract foreign investments into Maharashtra, and a tad unrealistic. A spokesperson for McKinsey Global Institute believes, “The challenge is that this tech is not proven. It’s still an early phase of development and I think we should wait till the pilot is done and then see how this can be scaled up.”
But if the technology can prove its promise, hyperloops may one day become the fastest transit option with the lowest fuel consumption rates. And Maharashtra will be one of the first states in the world to helm that disruption.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.