by Matthew Field, The Telegraph, October 12, 2017
Sir Richard Branson has invested in the futuristic transportation technology Hyperloop, promising to build the "world's most revolutionary train service".
Sir Richard led a $85m (£65m) investment in Hyperloop One, a California-based company that is the first to successfully test the high-speed magnetic levitation technology. As part of the deal the company will be renamed Virgin Hyperloop One and enter Sir Richard's Virgin Group umbrella.
Hyperloop, the brainchild of Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, involves pods being propelled through a near-vacuum at speeds of up to 700mph. Musk has proposed the system as a new form of high-speed travel that could cut the time between cities from hours to minutes.
Sir Richard joined Hyperloop One's funding round last month, which valued the company at more than $700m.
Virgin Hyperloop One will join Sir Richard's sprawling business empire, which includes high-speed rail investments in Virgin Rail and his space flight venture Virgin Galactic.
During its most recent phase of testing, Hyperloop One reached 192mph over a route of just under 450 metres. It has proposed routes across the US and a route that will carry passengers from London to Edinburgh in 50 minutes.
"Earlier this summer I was fortunate to visit the site and see first-hand the exciting technology being tested," Sir Richard said. "I was very impressed and now look forward to helping turn this cutting edge engineering into a global passenger service."
Sir Richard told CNBC people could see a Hyperloop developed in the next two to four years. While its price has been touted as cheaper than developing high-speed rail, there remain question marks over the technology, with reports last year that proposals for a Hyperloop in the Los Angeles Bay Area would cost $84m and $121m per mile, significantly more than initially predicted.