London is set to be getting its own Virgin Hyperloop One system between the capital and major UK cities within the next ten years, pending regulatory approvals, but Brexit and HS2 have been its biggest delays, City A.M. has learned.
Two Hyperloop London destinations that are in the works are routes to Manchester and Edinburgh, the durations of which are estimated to take 25 and 48 minutes respectively. The capital is an important focus for the Hyperloop team, due to its high commuter numbers and deeply congested road and railway infrastructure.
“London is a massive opportunity for us, and we look forward to working with TfL, the mayor and other entities,” said Virgin Hyperloop Ones creative director Colin Rhys in an interview with City A.M. ahead of appearing at London Tech Week.
“Hyperloop will allow for unmatched connectivity for not only the city of London but the entire UK, as well as the northern powerhouse.”
However Brexit and the nations high-speed railway projects have become the companys main roadblocks to setting up shop in the UK, with launches in Europe now expected to precede British systems by around five years.
Rhys said: “Post-Brexit its two separate projects now – it comes down to the regulatory work that has to be done. Hyperloop can use the existing right of way for high-speed rail, and existing decommissioned tracks, but its less about the building and implementation, and more about how quickly we can work with regulators.”
In Europe, Virgin Hyperloop One has created an international standards working group to allow the company to create safety standards for the system across all borders. Though the UK has been invited to the table, a post-Brexit environment means that Hyperloop will now have to work with the UK independently to find a regulatory solution.
Rhys also suggested a portion of the capital set aside for the expansion of Londons airport runways should instead be diverted to further expansion on Hyperloops famous airport connection routes, linking up Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports and cutting journey times significantly.
“Right now were in the phase of establishing the alignments, what these routes will be, and getting the right stakeholders on board,” he continued.
“I cant say its going to help with HS2 on the ground, but what I would say is that Hyperloop is not meant to be a replacement.”
“Realistically we hope to have our first system operational and commercialised by 2021 or 2022, in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Within two to three years, well begin our first implementations in Europe.”
“Theres no reason why it wont be operational within 10 years in the UK, but we wont be doing our job if the UK continues to build more high speed rail.”
Rhys will be joining other major names in the technology industry, such as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Sir Martin Sorrell and Facebooks EMEA vice president Nicola Mendelson, at events in the capital next week as part of London Tech Week.