Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop travel in 25 minutes! How the concept of 1,220 kmph technology came about; top facts

Bulbul Dhawan
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Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project: The ambitious plan of building a Hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune by Hyperloop One might come to an end even before it is properly started. Conceptualised at the time of Devendra Fradnavis-led Maharashtra government after the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence in February 2018, the proposed ultra-modern technology project aimed to reduce the travel time between Pune and Mumbai from around 3 hours to a mere 25 minutes.

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However, the recent change in the reigns of the Maharashtra government has left the Hyperloop project with an uncertain future. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has hinted at the development when he said that the project is in an experimental phase and hasn’t been implemented anywhere in the world.

Here are some facts about the Hyperloop project that would bring Mumbai and Pune closer.

Hyperloop technology explained

According to an IE report, in 2012, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk first spoke about his vision of an ultra-modern transport system, which he called 'Hyperloop’. According to him, Hyperloop would have a speed which was three or four times that of bullet trains and it would never crash. Moreover, Hyperloop would be immune to adversities due to weather. The average speed of the Hyperloop would be double the speed of an aircraft, according to Musk. In 2013, Elon Musk revealed a detailed plan of his envisioned transport system, which would run at a speed of 1,220 km/hour using solar energy and could reduce the 3-hour high-speed train travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco to 30 minutes.

According to Elon Musk, the high speed of the pods, which would carry the passengers, would be achieved using magnetic levitation. The speed would also be aided by the near-vacuum conditions that would prevail inside the tubes which would be the used to transport these pods.

Upon explaining the idea, Musk open-sourced it and encouraged private entities with sufficient resources to develop the Hyperloop system. It was this that led to the formation of Hyperloop One, which was founded in 2014. It was rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One in 2017 after it received major investment from billionaire Richard Branson., the report said.

How did the idea of Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop come to life?

Upon attending the Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Hyperloop One would create a Hyperloop system between central Pune and Navi Mumbai airport. The responsibility of the project was then handed over to the Pune Metropolitan Development Authority (PMRDA). The authority said the Hyperloop project would be implemented in two phases – a test track of 11.4 km on a corridor from Gahunje to Ozarde and, if the test phase would be successful, a 117.5-km final track would be built in the second phase.

The Hyperloop connectivity between Pune and Mumbai would be significant as 15 crore passenger trips between the two cities were expected every year. Moreover, the system was also likely to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 86,000 tonnes over a span of 30 years, the report added.

Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop: Current status

The PMRDA had, in September 2018, asked the Maharashtra Infrastructure Development Enabling Authority to allot a part of the project work on Hyperloop connectivity to private players. The Pune authority had proposed that it intended to award contracts for the Hyperloop project based on 'Swiss Challenge Method', with DP World FZE and Hyperloop Technologies Inc named as the 'original project proponents and other players being invited with better proposals. In November that year, the state Urban Development Department made the project a public infrastructure project and allowed the use of Swiss Challenge Method.

In January last year, the Pune development authority asked the public to submit their suggestions and objections regarding the project, the IE report said.

However, recently a senior PMRDA official said that nothing regarding the project had been finalised yet. He added that Virgin Hyperloop One was asked for some clarifications on some issues a few months ago, but no response had been received. He further said that the announcement of DP World FZE and Hyperloop Technologies Inc as Original Project Proponents was conditional and not final yet.

Future of the Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop project?

NCP's Ajit Pawar, who is also the Finance Minister of Maharashtra, had said that since Hyperloop project has not been implemented anywhere else in the world, the new government would rather wait for the system to be put in place elsewhere for a minimum distance of 10 km. If that turned out to be successful, the state government would consider implementing it, Pawar added.

With this, the future of the Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop project becomes uncertain, at least for the foreseeable future.

Where else is the possibility of Hyperloop being explored?

Presently, nine companies are working on the Hyperloop technology. They have also announced the construction of test tracks and intercity transport system in different parts across the world. Among these nine companies is also India-based DGWHyperloop India.

So far, the leading projects are the Pune-Mumbai Hyperloop, Hyperloop between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Hyperloop connecting Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, a Hyperloop track connecting St Louis, Kansas City and Columbia in Missouri and another Indian Hyperloop between Amravati and Vijayawada.

However, with the progress on all of these being slow, it could take some time before passengers travelling between Pune and Mumbai get a respite in travel time.