Autumn has brought a series of unexpected developments for the hyperloop industry. Companies trying to pioneer a new mode of transport have been met with complicated geopolitical realities. Some of the key players have also changed.
Virgin Hyperloop One has modified its leadership following a new round of funding. Jay Walder has been appointed as the new CEO and will also join the company’s Board of Directors. Walter has an extensive background at transit companies and agencies. Newly appointed chairman Ahmed bin Sulayem is also providing different direction.
Sulayem has stated that Saudi investors still have a big interest in developing a hyperloop system. He suggested that talks with the country will resume “when the right time comes.” Ahmed bin Sulayem is known for his leadership role at DP World, the Dubai-based global port operator.
The Virgin Hyperloop One leadership change comes after Richard Branson stepped down as chairman. Branson was concerned about Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Branson had indicated that he would suspend certain dealings with Saudi Arabia. The contentious issue seemed as though it could impact hyperloop plans and agreements; there are conflicting reports.
However, a public statement released by the company has suggested that Branson’s resignation stemmed from too many demands on his time. The British billionaire has many philanthropic ventures in addition to other business within the Virgin Group. Branson’s board seat will be taken by Virgin’s Patrick McCall. Now, Ahmed bin Sulayem says that it’s strategically important for the company to focus on a project in India before pushing further expansion.
On October 21st, Elon Musk shared his own tunnel boring progress, with brevity. “The first tunnel is almost done,” he tweeted. One minute later, he wrote, “Opens Dec 10.” He promised free rides for the public the next day.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg ran a story titled “A Struggling Spanish Town Pins Hopes on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.” Hyperloop has won the support of El Puerto de Santa María Mayor David de la Encina, who hopes to revive his town’s economy and glory days.