Hyperloop to build high-speed "new Silk Road" through Russia

By bne IntelliNews June 22, 2016

Hyperloop is planning to build a "new Silk Road" from China to Europe via Russia and has already signed a cooperation deal, media reports said on June 21, quoting the US company.

With testing already underway in the US, the futuristic transport system would propel carriages carrying passengers or cargo through pipes on cushions of air at speeds of up to 1,200 kilometres per hour.

Hyperloop co-founder and executive chairman Shervin Pishevar signed a cooperation deal with Russia authorities and the Summa Group, a company which invests in infrastructure projects, at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in mid-June, Reuters and other media reported.

As well as passengers, the route would be used for delivering cargo across the Eurasian landmass, hence the reference to the Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes connecting the Mediterranean Sea and China. "Now a container from China can be in Europe within ten-eleven hours … we are talking on hours," the CEO of Hyperloop Dirk Ahlborn told TASS.

Hyperloop is based on the idea of billionaire Elon Musk, the founder of the PayPal payment system and the mind behind projects like the Tesla electric car and private space company SpaceX. The company plans to launch the first full-fledged transport system by 2020 after performing the first successful test drives in May in the desert near Las Vegas.

In Russia, pipelines for the Hyperloop trains can be built above the existing gas pipelines using their right-of-way, according to Ahlborn. "We can actually go above existing right-of-way," he said. "Obviously when I look at someone like Gazprom and the pipelines … these are massive rights-of-way available … It would be an interesting thing to look at." Talks are planned with the Russian state energy company, the CEO added.

Last month, Russian Railways (RZD) and Hyperloop set up a working group to discuss the possibility of using the technology, Vedomosti reported.

However, the construction of Hyperloop, which like any other high-speed line needs its own infrastructure, makes economic sense only on the route between Moscow and St Petersburg, the daily quoted Mikhail Burmistrov, CEO of Infoline-Analitika agency, as saying.

Currently, cargo traffic between Russia's two largest cities bypasses the direct line designed for high-speed trains. Outside Moscow and St Petersburg the project would be unprofitable, Burmistrov believes.

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