Saudi Arabia issued Virgin Hyperloop One with a trade licence for the kingdom following a national pre-feasibility study on using hyperloop technology to transport people and goods.
The newly formed Ministry of Investment, formerly known as Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), awarded the Los Angeles-based company the licence in a move towards the commercialisation of hyperloop technology, Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement on Tuesday.
"From here we intend to establish a permanent presence that would better enable us to invest in resources in the region and run our local operations," Tim Wilkinson, executive director of strategy and growth at Virgin Hyperloop One, said. "The move marks important progress towards the commercialisation of hyperloop technology and could propel the country to the forefront of hyperloop development worldwide.”
The trade licence was issued after Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Transport and the company said last month they joined forced to conduct a pre-feasibility study on the use of hyperloop technology for the transport of passengers and cargoes in the kingdom. The study would examine viable routes, expected demand, anticipated costs and explore the socio-economic benefits of creating jobs and developing high-tech skills.
The Ministry of Investment issued the licence to the futuristic transportation start-up at the US-Saudi Arabia Business Forum held in Washington DC.
Hyperloop is expected to create jobs and contribute to local gross domestic product, while creating infrastructure for a connected Saudi Arabia, the statement said.
Last year, Virgin Hyperloop One said it would undertake a separate study with Saudi Arabia's Economic City Authority to develop the world's longest test track and explored the feasibility of building a manufacturing centre and operating facility.
The findings showed the company's potential to create more than 124,000 high-tech local jobs, supporting the technology sector by incorporating advances in robotics and AI while driving an estimated $4 billion (Dh14.69bn) increase in Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2030, the statement said.
The company is also in talks about possible projects in several US states and has a longstanding interest in the UAE and wider Middle East. It counts DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator, and the Abu Dhabi Capital Group as major investors.
Once the technology is ready, Virgin Hyperloop One is aiming to transport passengers at speeds of up to 1,080 kilometres per hour, nearly three times faster than a conventional high-speed rail.
It would cut the travel time from Riyadh to Jeddah to only 46 minutes. A journey from Riyadh to Qiddiyah would take only 5 minutes, while a trip from Jeddah to Neom could be completed in 40 minutes and from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi in only 48 minutes.
Hyperloop technology relies on depressurised tubes carrying passengers or cargoes in pods.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Virgin Hyperloop One are the two international firms which are leading the race to bring a working hyperloop system to the mass transport market.