SEATTLE/WASHINGTON — Virgin Hyperloop has picked West Virginia to host a $500 million certification center and test track for billionaire Richard Branson’s super high-speed travel system.
The center will be the first U.S. regulatory proving ground for a hyperloop system designed to whisk floating pods packed with passengers and cargo through vacuum tubes at 600 mph or faster.
Branson announced the decision in a press conference on Thursday, joined virtually by U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Elaine Chao, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“Today we lay the foundation for commercial deployment and operations across the United States of America and beyond,” the company’s CEO Jay Walder told reporters.
In a hyperloop system, which uses magnetic levitation to allow near-silent travel, a trip between New York and Washington would take just 30 minutes. That would be twice as fast as a commercial jet flight and four times faster than a high-speed train.
Construction is slated to begin in 2022 on the site of a former coal mine in Tucker and Grant Counties, W.Va., roughly a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C. Safety certification is expected by by 2025 and commercial operations by 2030, the company said.
Federal regulators will use the center, and accompanying six-mile test track, to establish regulatory and safety standards, while Virgin will test its product and infrastructure.