Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has hinted he and his company Virgin could be preparing to invest in hyperloop, the 700mph levitating train envisioned by Tesla boss Elon Musk.
Musk, who is the chief executive of electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX, revealed plans for hyperloop back in 2013. In a whitepaper detailing hyperloop he saw a future where conventional high-speed trains would be replaced by a vehicle levitated by magnets and propelled by electric motors through a tunnel with most of its air removed.
Now, as two US companies called Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies work to make Musk's dream a reality, Branson and Virgin look like they could enter the fold.
Speaking to GQ, Branson said: "Hyperloop and Virgin – there's something on the horizon." Branson also spoke to the magazine about Virgin Galactic, his space tourism company offering four minutes of weightlessness to passengers paying $200,000 (£160,000) for the privilege. After a Galactic pilot was killed in an accident in 2014, the company is preparing to begin testing a replacement spaceship ahead of the first customer flights taking off in 2018, nine years behind schedule.
The British businessman's interest in hyperloop may stem right back to August 2013, when he conducted a Google Hangout video chat with Musk. Occurring just days before Musk' published his white paper on hyperloop, the pair chatted publicly about Silicon Valley and the experience of running their own businesses.
Meanwhile, Hyperloop One recently announced a series of proposed routes for the UK and Europe. One could take passengers from Edinburgh to London (via Manchester and Birmingham) in just 50 minutes, while another would connect Cardiff with Glasgow in 89 minutes. The company completed a test track in April 2017 and said it was on the brink of the "first great breakthrough in transportation technology of the 21st century".
Investing in hyperloop technology would be a logical move for Branson, who through his Virgin Trains company has been a part of the UK's public transport industry since 1997. High-speed transport is also on his mind, with plans to extend Virgin Galactic from a sightseeing tourist flight to a shuttle service between cities, via space. So-called hypersonic point-to-point travel could see passengers fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo in just one hour.