Exclusive: Virgin Hyperloop picks West Virginia to test high-speed transport system

By Eric M. Johnson and Joey Roulette
SEATTLE / WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virgin Hyperloop has selected the state of West Virginia to build a $ 500 million certification center and test track for billionaire Richard Branson's super high-speed travel system, Reuters announced.
The center will be the first U.S. proving ground for a Hyperloop system capable of moving floating pods filled with passengers and cargo through vacuum tubes at speeds of 966 km / h or more.
Branson later announced the decision in a press conference Thursday that practically featured U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Republican state governor Jim Justice, and U.S. Senators from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican , and Joe Manchin, a Democrat, participated.
"Today we're laying the foundation for commercial use and operations in the United States and beyond," the company's chief executive Jay Walder told reporters.
In a Hyperloop system that uses maglev trains to provide near-silent travel, a trip between New York and Washington would only take 30 minutes. That would be twice as fast as a commercial jet flight and four times faster than a bullet train.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022 on the site of a former coal mine in Tucker and Grant Counties, West Virginia. Safety certification is expected to take place by 2025 and commercial operation by 2030.
Federal regulators will use the center and its six-mile test track to set regulatory and safety standards while Virgin will test its product and infrastructure.
The announcement comes less than three months after the transportation division issued guidance on a legal framework for US hyperloop systems. On Thursday, Chao said the guidelines would allow the company "less time to spend on government filings and more time to manufacture Hyperloop systems quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, safely."
Virgin Hyperloop, which has raised more than $ 400 million primarily from UAE shipping companies DP World and Branson, is one of a number of companies battling to introduce new high-speed travel systems.
Canada's Transpod and Spain's Zeleros are also aiming to upgrade traditional passenger and cargo networks with similar technology, which they believe will cut travel times, congestion and environmental damage associated with petroleum-powered machines.
Elon Musk's Boring Company provides for commuters to travel in electric cars on underground tracks.
Virgin Hyperloop selected West Virginia after reviewing applications from 17 states to join the center.
However, the company's most likely first route could be India, which connects Mumbai to Pune, although the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed procurement and construction originally scheduled for 2020.
Virgin Hyperloop also has an R&D test track near Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)

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