Virgin Hyperloop was going to revolutionize the passenger train. After a hundred layoffs, it will be reoriented to merchandise

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The bet was risky and, finally, it has been regular. Virgin Hyperloop, the company that wanted to revolutionize passenger transport by land with a low-pressure tube train that would travel at more than 1,000 kilometers per hour, has laid off half of its workforce and is going to reorient the business to freight transport , as reported by the Financial Times. The project had already delayed its start-up on several occasions and the change in orientation seems to respond to greater ease and lower cost to start trading.

What is it. The hyperloop is a type of land transport that is based on a network of almost empty tubes through which large capsules, which act as wagons, circulate at high speed. The system uses magnetic levitation and propulsion technologies that, added to almost zero aerodynamic resistance, will make these capsules reach 1,080 kilometers per hour, according to Virgin data. This will allow them to connect cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, 560 kilometers away, in just 35 minutes.

Idea resurrected by Elon Musk. The idea of ​​high-speed tube transportation over land is over 100 years old and has, in fact, appeared in several works of science fiction in the last century. However, the current push for hyperloop technology, which is being developed by various companies, is part of a project Elon Musk embarked on in 2013 to try to make it a reality.

Virgin took over from Musk and has been one of the companies that has most seriously committed to the hyperloop, with important innovations and relevant milestones in the last decade, such as successfully carrying out the first test trip with passengers in 2021.

Problems. However, despite making significant progress and positioning itself as one of the main players in the sector, on several occasions it has had to delay the deadlines it had set for the transport system to come into operation. Thus, in 2017 its directors assured that Virgin Hyperloop would be operating by 2020. When that year came, they corrected themselves and said that it would start circulating in 2021. As of today, already in 2022, they have not yet started operating.

According to TheVerge, the company’s change of course towards freight transport, which has been accompanied by 111 layoffs, responds more to regulatory and security problems than to technological ones. Thus, the company would have encountered multiple obstacles to comply with the regulations and security measures for the transport of passengers, so they would have decided to try first with the transfer of goods. And for that change of direction that they did not foresee when they started the project, they have had to cut costs.

An opportunity in the supply chain. Despite all the problems cited, from Virgin Hyperloop they assure that this change of course is due to the opportunity they have seen in the current supply chain crisis. The Americans consider that, in the medium term, the speed of their system can be a good solution to end the shortage of certain products caused by the slowdown in freight transport.

The theoretical seventeenth-century train to travel from Spain to New Zealand in 42 minutes

The project that could have been Malaga. In 2018, Virgin Hyperloop announced that it would build a development center in Antequera, Malaga, after signing an agreement with the Ministry of Development through Adif. These facilities were going to be used to manufacture the project’s commercial prototypes.

However, that was put on hold in 2020 when Virgin paralyzed the construction of the development center for, they said, not receiving the public aid worth 126 million euros that they had been promised if they chose Antequera to locate it. Since then there have been no more news about it.

Other projects. In addition to Virgin Hyperloop, there are several other companies developing this technology, including three from Elon Musk, which are separately exploring the various components needed to bring this high-speed ground transportation to life. Thus, Tesla is building prototype capsules, SpaceX is testing them and The Boring Company (dedicated to digging tunnels) is working on the construction of the tubes through which they would circulate.

others are Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (with the participation of Talgo or Nvidia), TransPodor the Spanish zelerosamong other.

The bet was risky and, finally, it has been regular. Virgin Hyperloop, the company that wanted to revolutionize passenger transport…

The bet was risky and, finally, it has been regular. Virgin Hyperloop, the company that wanted to revolutionize passenger transport…

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