KAEC’s Centre of Excellence likely to start running by 2024, says Virgin Hyperloop
by Christine El Cheikh
Virgin Hyperloop One’s (VHO) Managing Director for Middle East and India, Harj Dhaliwal, told Argaam that the prospective Centre of Excellence at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is likely to start running by 2024.
“If approved, we could break ground at the Centre of Excellence as early as 2020. It would include an integrated certification and test track, as well as explore the feasibility of creating a manufacturing center and operating facility,” he said.
Dhaliwal added that these efforts would support Saudi’s export industry, increase research and development (R&D) capabilities, and create high-skill jobs.
Dhaliwal declined to disclose the cost of the project, nevertheless, he stated that it would significantly drive domestic value in line with Saudi Vision 2030, increase jobs, establish domestic manufacturing and uplift Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He further explained that VHO study showed that KAEC’s project would pour 124,000 high-tech jobs in the local market by incorporating advances in robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which he said, will drive an estimated SAR 15 billion ($4 billion) increase in the Saudi GDP by 2030.
In July 2019, Virgin Hyperloop One signed a partnership agreement with the Economic Cities Authority (ECA) to conduct a feasibility study to build a world-class hyperloop “Center of Excellence” which includes the world’s longest test and certification Hyperloop track, a research and development center, as well as a hyperloop manufacturing facility at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), 100 km northern Jeddah.
Virgin Hyperloop One’s technology entails traveling at a speed of up to 1080 kilometers per hour, equivalent to 3 times a high-speed rail. This has the potential to significantly reduce journey time across the Kingdom, as well as improving connectivity across GCC, specifically UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
On “Connected GCC” project, VHO managing director said the connectivity between major cities across the Gulf is underdeveloped.
“We see great opportunities for residents, tourists and goods to travel wide distances at speeds that would match - or even exceed - those of commercial airplanes, but at a rate that is 5 to 10 times more energy efficient,” he stressed.
Dhaliwal also noted that there is an emergence of a single economic zone, which will lead to creating jobs and new opportunities, as well as driving economic growth.
The project targets connecting Abu Dhabi to Riyadh in 45 minutes, Riyadh to Jeddah in 48 minutes, and Bahrain to Kuwait in 35 minutes.
With regard to how is the communication moving forward with GCC governments, he stated that VHO’s “attractive proposition” has paved the way for deepening the relationships with governments and key stakeholders across the Gulf, which he said are keen to embrace new technologies.
“Governments in the Arabian Gulf are farsighted, visionary and looking to leapfrog to new, sustainable and advanced tech-driven solutions. They have seen the future and so have we,” he affirmed.
Dhaliwal expressed Virgin Hypeloop One’s interest in supporting some key focus areas such as infrastructure, sustainability, and youth and women empowerment, in response to the company’s future plans in the Kingdom.