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Virgin picks site for hyperloop test centre

9 Oct 20 Virgin Hyperloop has chosen West Virginia as its test site to pave the way for the roll-out of its high-speed transport system in the US and around the world.

The Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) is regarded by Virgin as the first step towards commercial projects.

Hyperloop transport systems are being developed by a number of companies. Capsules will glide at high speeds, propelled within a tube by a linear electric motor. There is almost no friction, thanks to the removal of most of the air in the tube and the use of magnetic levitation to make the capsule float. This reduces drag and minimises the amount of electricity needed to achieve the speeds of 1,000km/h or more.

The company has previously said that the test track at its HCC is expected be about 10km to 16km long. Virgin Hyperloop’s existing 500m test track, DevLoop, came into operation three years ago in Nevada, USA.

“Today is one of the most exciting days in Virgin Hyperloop’s history,” said Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. “The Hyperloop Certification Center is the start of the hyperloop journey for West Virginia, for the United States, and for the world. We’re one step closer to making hyperloop travel a reality for people everywhere.”

The aim is for the new centre to help achieve key technological milestones – such as faster speeds – as well as more political ones, like creating a national framework for safety certification. Seventeen states submitted formal responses to the request for proposals.

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Virgin Hyperloop said that it will thousands of new jobs across construction, manufacturing, operations, and high-tech sectors.

“Particularly as we look to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, it’s clear that we need a 21st century solution that will propel us forward, allowing us to not just rebuild, but actually evolve.” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “Hyperloop is that solution, and we look forward to working with our partners across the country – in places like West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Washington, and North Carolina – to connect the country from coast to coast.”

Virgin Hyperloop aims to achieve safety certification by 2025, with commercial operations beginning in 2030.

The HCC has received bicameral and bipartisan support at all levels of the government, at the local, state, and federal level. Governor Jim Justice said: “Today is a fantastic day for the state of West Virginia, and I’d like to be the first to officially welcome the folks from Virgin Hyperloop to their new home. For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true. Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state – investment, jobs, and tremendous growth. It’s a true honour and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation. When we approached Virgin Hyperloop, I told them that we would do everything we could to bring this opportunity to West Virginia. We look forward to working with the Virgin Hyperloop team to create a lasting partnership for years to come.”

In July, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) secretary Elaine Chao and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council unveiled a guidance document on a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the United States. The announcement provided a pathway for hyperloop regulation and deployment in the US and also established hyperloop’s eligibility for federal funding for projects.

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