Whether the project will come to fruition remains to be seen. What is certain is Andhra Pradesh exploring a transportation system that is yet to be deployed anywhere in the world: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ (HTT’s) Hyperloop that could reduce travel time between Vijaywada and Amravati (42 km apart) from one hour to five minutes. Considering Amravati is India’s newest state capital, this may not be as radical as it seems.The Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) recently signed an MoU with HTT for building the system. The project is envisaged under a public-private-partnership (PPP) model. Based in Los Angeles, HTT has a global team comprising more than 800 technologists. The brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who open-sourced the basic design in 2013, Hyperloop envisages a tube modular system that runs free of friction. The company has signed agreements in California, Slovakia, Abu Dhabi, the Czech Republic, France, Indonesia and Korea for high-speed travel in pods inside a partial-vacuum tube, though the technology is yet to clear the trial stages.
“In partnering with Andhra Pradesh, HTT will work with local stakeholders to ensure the regulatory standards necessary for safe and efficient operations,” says Bibop Gresta, chairman & co-founder, HTT. During phase 1, HTT would conduct a six-month feasibility study commencing in October. Working with partners in the public and private sectors, it would analyse the surrounding cityscapes to chart the best route between the two cities. Phase 2 of the project would see the first Hyperloop being built in India.
Explaining the choice, Krishna Kishore, CEO, APEDB, says “major cities of the world have seen a decline in livability with transportation being a major contributor to urban woes. By collaborating with HTT, Amravati is embracing a prototype for future mobility.” Adds Aviruk Chakraborty, advisor to APEDB, “our move reflects India’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.
However, transportation experts have their reservations. “Hyperloop is a new and under-development technology and it would be better to go for proven technologies. Also, the company is yet to spell out ticket rates or estimates for the project,” says an expert Sanjeev Sinha, appointed advisor by Japan Railways for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High-Speed Rail, opines, “Hyperloop still needs to be understood in its entirety. There are serious technical challenges with dedicated infrastructure.”’ Early this year, HTT said it had begun construction of the first full-scale passenger capsule. An official exhibition is expected in early 2018. The capsule would then be utilised in a commercial system, to be chosen at the end of the negotiations and feasibility studies being conducted around the world.