Virgin Hyperloop One has announced a development partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) to conduct a study to build the world’s first long-range track to test hyperloop technology.

As part of the agreement, the partners will also build a research and development centre and manufacturing facility north of Jeddah.

Hyperloop technology aims to power a super-fast transport system that uses electric propulsion to accelerate a passenger cargo pod through a low-pressure tube at speeds of up to 700mph.

Virgin invested in Hyperloop One, to date the only company to successfully test the technology at scale, in 2017. At the time, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said the technology could make it possible to travel from Edinburgh to London in 50 minutes.

The partnership with Saudi Arabia will see Virgin Hyperloop One focus on King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), located 100km north of the Red Sea port of Jeddah. The project will include a 35-km test and certification track and will create opportunities for the development of specific technologies and local expertise that can be commercialised and scaled.

In parallel to the project, Prince Mohammad bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship will collaborate on the creation and publication of an academic paper outlining the economic impact of a Hyperloop Centre of Excellence in KAEC.

ECA secretary general Mohanud A Helal said: “Our partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One is a matter of pride for us and all of Saudi Arabia. As we continue to help deliver the strategic pillars of Vision 2030, the technology transfer and high-tech job creation opportunities that this relationship will bring are fundamental to our progress as a nation and our efforts to create opportunities for our bright young people. Having hyperloop at King Abdullah Economic City is going to act as a catalyst for a Saudi Silicon Valley effect and galvanise our software development, high technology research and manufacturing industries.”

Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, commented: “With Vision 2030, the Kingdom has demonstrated bold leadership to advance game-changing solutions. A hyperloop system could help enable Saudi Arabia to become a global transportation powerhouse, nurture the nation’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture and grow an innovative knowledge workforce. I look forward to this collaboration with our visionary partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to turn this technology into a mass transportation solution.”

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