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AECOM pegs Hyperloop to compete with airways

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-10-2017 Jyotika sood

New Delhi: AECOM India, one of the finalists for the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, whose concept was proposed by Elon Musk, expects the fare for the 334km Bengaluru-Chennai trip in a hyperloop high-speed transport system to be around Rs2,000.

AECOM also claims it will take just 3-5 years for India to set up its first project once the technology is accepted. Hyperloop is an experimental transportation mode that will move freight and people at a speed of around 1,000-1,200 km/hour by moving a vehicle through a low-pressure or vacuum tube.

“It will re-invent transportation business and systems worldwide,” said AECOM India senior vice-president G.V.R. Raju, who also headed the five-member team which made it to the Hyperloop One Global Challenge final.

According to Raju, a faster transportation system better then air-travel at Rs2,000 would be a compelling proposition. “We have no doubt about its viability,” he siad, adding that people pay around Rs3,500 to Rs10,000 for a trip from Bengaluru to Chennai now.

It would cater more to the middle class than the masses, he added.

The company chose the route keeping in mind the industrial growth in Chennai and Bengaluru in the last two decades. A lot of industrial clusters are coming up along the Bengaluru-Chennai corridor which would provide enough traffic for Hyperloop to work. Besides, the route doesn’t have a rough terrain, making it easy to build infrastructure.

On the question of costs, Raju says in beginning, one may need to pay Intellectual Property (IP) charges as it’s a new technology but once there is wide acceptance it would be cheaper than high-speed rail. The company is already in talks with investors including some automobile companies manufacturing electric-vehicles in India for a potential partnership. “At the moment, the investors are watching for the first project to come up,” he added.

AECOM India has discussed the project with the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and the feedback was enthusiastic, Raju said. AECOM India, a unit of US-based transportation giant AECOM, is presently working on 11 of the 12 metro rail projects being implemented in India.

Bringing Hyperloop technology in India would face two main challenges: The first one is legislation, as the transportation system does not fall in either air, rail or road category that are covered by existing laws. Secondly, it would need high initial investments and would be viable only on routes where people have purchasing power.

Last year, Hyperloop One, a LA-based start-up, secured a $50 million investment from the world third largest Port and terminal operator DP World to conduct feasibility study for transporting cargo for a distance of around 50km through an underwater channel. The company plans to conduct a second trial of its technology at its testing facility in Nevada in US this month.

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