- Virgin Hyperloop One has released the results of a study finding that a potential hyperloop route connecting the Missouri cities of Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis would be commercially viable and safe. The study, conducted by Black & Veatch, has not been fully released, but the hyperloop company announced the results at a sustainability conference this week.
- According to the study, travel time between Kansas City and St. Louis could be as low as 28 minutes, compared to 3.5 hours, with a ticket price that could be lower than the cost of driving. Black & Veatch projects that the hyperloop would increase ridership demand by 80% along the corridor.
- “We are thrilled at the results of this study,” Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd said, as reported by AP. "A feasibility study of this depth represents the first phase of actualization of a full-scale commercial hyperloop system, both for passengers and cargo in the United States.”
The feasibility study — which also included consultation from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Missouri Department of Transportation — marks a significant step for the nascent technology. Ohio and Colorado are conducting similar feasibility studies, but this is the first completed one that shows where and how a route could be installed. Virgin Hyperloop One has said it wants to have three routes active by 2021.
Although the Missouri route was not one the finalists in a Hyperloop One challenge to identify the best potential routes, it does hold some obvious appeal. There are no significant geographical obstacles, and by running along the Interstate 70 highway there would be a clear, defined route for the hyper-fast tracks.
Significantly, the feasibility study does not include the projected cost of the project (or the cost of a ticket, only the explanation that it would cost less than driving). Ryan Kelly, head of marketing and communications for Virgin Hyperloop One, told The Verge that total construction costs could change based on where local leaders want to install hyperloop stations, or "portals," and how it connects to local transportation systems like transit systems. The study did find that linear infrastructure costs were about 40% lower than comparable high speed rail projects around the world, but with higher potential speeds.
Despite proposals, test tracks and feasibility studies from companies like Virgin and Tesla, the hyperloop remains years off. Still, the favorable study should lend the Missouri project some political support and could show the way forward for the new technology.