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Virgin successfully tests a vacuum train with passengers

Virgin Hyperloop co-founder and CTO Josh Nigel and Passenger Service Manager Sara Lucian flew 500 meters in the capsule on the experimental track in 15 seconds

For the first time, humans have traveled on a super-fast vacuum train. Advocates of the new movement hope to revolutionize transportation by traveling long distances in small capsules through low-pressure pipes at speeds as high as 1,070 km / h.

The tests were carried out by Virgin Hyperloop (VH), owned by British billionaire Richard Branson. During tests held on Sunday in the Nevada desert, two people drove a vacuum train 500 meters at a speed of about 160 km / h.

The vacuum train cost Virgin Hyperloop $400 million. The funding came from the Virgin Group, Richard Branson's holding company; French rail carrier SNCF and American giant General Electric.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

Branson is confident that Sunday's trials turned “revolutionary technology into reality.”

“Through today's successful trials,” he said, “we have shown that this spirit of innovation will change people's lives in the future: the way they live, work, and travel.”

Elon Musk is the author of the idea of a vacuum train or hyperloop. He talked about the technology in 2013. In six years, startups working on new technology have taken a big step forward. Developers are trying to use existing technologies. For example, they use old pneumatic pipes, through which mail and small parcels have been transported for several years over short distances, in the same building, for example, or within a maximum of one block. Besides; engineers are also trying to use bullet train magnetic levitation. Such trains in Shanghai already carry passengers at a speed of approx. 500 km / h. The US believes that vacuum trains can become an alternative to high-speed trains and connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The first tests are the beginning of a long and long journey. Virgin Hyperloop now has to prove the technology is financially safe and attractive. In the meantime, the prospects for widespread use of the new technology are rather vague. First of all, because of the very high price, even if the permission of the regulators is obtained.

The largest shareholder in Virgin Hyperloop is DP World, the operator of the Dubai Ports megaproject. This suggests that at the first stage of industrial application, vacuum trains will most likely be used for transporting goods, and only after a certain time will it begin to be used to transport passengers from one city to another at supersonic speeds.

The first passengers of the Hyperloop capsule

However, VH co-founder and test participant Josh Nigel is confident that the Nevada desert test will be a “giant leap” in the development of vacuum train technology.

“When we started working in the garage six years ago,” he told the FT, “we had a simple goal — to change the way people move.”

Nigel hopes that Sunday's success will be followed by other breakthroughs and that vacuum train technology will eventually step into real life.

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