Incredible 670mph capsule could speed tourists from London to Scotland in 45 minutes | UK | News

A trip to the Nevada desert convinced Sir Richard Branson he’d seen the future of superfast travel in Britain.

“I have a funny feeling that I’ll get a lot of satisfaction from people saying it’s transformed their lives,” the billionaire entrepreneur remarked after inspecting the Hyperloop One high-speed transportation system.

The Hyperloop invited passengers to clamber inside a capsule, buckle up and prepare to be propelled through a pipe to their destination at speeds of up to 670mph.

Branson’s dream was to construct Hyperloop infrastructure across Britain and revolutionise the way the country travelled.

“Virgin Hyperloop will be able to transport people from London to Scotland in 45 minutes,” he boasted. “I am convinced this groundbreaking technology will change transportation as we know it and dramatically cut journey times.”

Unfortunately for Sir Richard, his vision of Brits shooting across the countryside like characters in the opening sequence of the cult cartoon show Futurama is unlikely to happen anytime soon as seven years on from the billionaire’s “funny feeling” the project lies in tatters.

Virgin’s founder was far from the first mega-wealthy maverick to become enamoured with the hyperloop.

Elon Musk has been championing the technology for over a decade with Space X embarking on a variety of different projects attempting to push the concept forward.

But the owner of X had never really been able breakthrough in the manner Telsa did with the electric car so the hope was that Sir Richard’s entry into the sector would provide some impetus.

It didn’t get off to a good start. Barely a year into Virgin’s association with Hyperloop and the company was embroiled in scandal.

Board member and Russian oligarch Ziyavudin Magomedov stepped down from his role at Virgin Hyperloop after being arrested on embezzlement charges.

The former co-executive chairman was eventually sentenced to 19 years in prison over allegations he stole £146.5 million from the Russian state through transactions by subsidiaries of his Summa Holding company, charges he claims were unfounded and politically motivated.

A year later, another unwanted scandal erupted when its co-founder Shervin Pishevar exited the business following a Bloomberg report accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Like many bold plans forged in the pre-pandemic years, the economic disruption that followed Covid-19 made the conditions considerably worse for a company trying to push an untested method of transportation.

In 2022, the Financial Times revealed there had been a rather substantial strategic shift; the Hyperloop would send cargo speeding around rather than people.

This shift came as 100 staff were laid off from the company.

Discussing the decisions in a statement to the Hyperloop said although the long-term vision was still passenger travel “dramatic changes” in the “global supply chain” as a result of the pandemic had caused problems.

Worse was to follow before the end of the year when Sir Richard’s involvement in the company ceased.

He sold his stake in the firm and removed Virgin from its name, a decision reportedly sparked by the “change in short-term priorities.”

Finally, at the end of 2023 the Hyperloop dream disappeared into the distance. It was reported the company had planned to close and was selling assets.

Having raised $450 million to develop the groundbreaking concept, the test track in Nevada which had wooed Sir Richard into lending his highly-regarded Virgin name ultimately never made it to Britain.

But who knows? Maybe the path has been cleared for Elon Musk to realise the dream of UK Hyperloop travel.


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