An Expert Committee has been constituted to explore the prospects of ultrahigh speed travel.
Government think-tank NITI Aayog has formed a high-level panel to explore the technological and commercial viability of the Virgin Hyperloop technology for ultrahigh speed travel in India, weeks after its first test was completed with humans on board. The Virgin Hyperloop test run was conducted on a 500-meter track in Las Vegas in the U.S.A. with a pod, as the hyperloop vehicles are called, travelling with passengers, including an Indian, inside an enclosed tube at more than 100 mph or 161 kmph. A Niti Aayog document, accessed by the PTI, says that in view of the emerging transport technology and for gaining the first-mover advantage, it is essential to look into the technological and commercial viability of the Virgin Hyperloop technology. It is relevant to explore technological, commercial, financial (viability) and (assess) safety standards and regulations to procure new technology. It has been decided to constitute an Expert Committee, the document says. The committee has NITI Aayog member V.K. Saraswat as its Chairman and Adviser (Infrastructure Connectivity, NITI Aayog) Sudhendu Jyoti Sinha as its convener. Its other members are Railway Board Chairman & CEO V.K. Yadav, the secretaries of the ministries of Housing and Urban Affairs, Road Transport and Highways, and the Maharashtra government’s Transport Secretary.The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Chairman, the Delhi Metro’s Managing Director, the IIT-Delhi Director and the Chairman (Technology Information) of the forecasting and assessment council are also its members. About the mandate of the committee, the document says, “To study Virgin hyperloop technology and its commercial viability, (and) safety, regulation and finalise the document within six months’ time of its first meeting.”The committee may also invite domain experts and representatives from various organisations to its meetings as it may deem fit, the document says. Hyperloop is a technology proposed by inventor and businessman Elon Musk, who is behind the electric car company Tesla and the commercial space transport company SpaceX. The Virgin Hyperloop is among a handful of companies which are currently trying to build such a system for passenger travel. With hyperloop, vehicles accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod floats along the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. Maharashtra has deemed hyperloop a public infrastructure exercise and approved the Virgin Hyperloop-DP World Consortium as the original project proponent for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project. Virgin Hyperloop had last month announced a partnership with Bangalore International Airports to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop corridor from the airport. With the NITI Aayog now stepping in, the report of the committee could act as a roadmap for a charting the way forward for hyperloop in the country.