Hyperloop is coming to one of China’s poorest provinces

Coming to you soon.
Coming to you soon.
Image: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies
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In China, one proverb tells the gist of how economic development happens in many poor and distant places: If you want to get rich, first build a road. The mountainous southwestern Guizhou province is a perfect example of that.

The Guizhou government yesterday (July 19) signed a deal with California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to build a track for a futuristic high-speed transportation system in Guizhou’s eastern city Tongren. Under the agreement, Hyperloop will establish a 50-50 joint venture with state-owned Tongren Transport, Tourism and Investment Group, according to state media People’s Daily.

Founded in 2013, Hyperloop aims to build a transportation system, also called a hyperloop, that uses magnets to levitate trains, purportedly making it possible to travel at speeds up to 1,223 km/h (760 mph). The arrival of a hyperloop project, where trains travel in an airless tube, in Guizhou shows how one of China’s poorest provinces is transforming into a tech hub. The province is now the data-storage home of Apple’s iCloud users in China, and will house the user data of social-media app WeChat.

Being part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative—a massive infrastructure project often dubbed the new Silk Road—has made Guizhou attractive for foreign investment. One of the initiative’s key components is building routes for high-speed trains. “We envision that Hyperloop will play into a bigger role in the Silk Road Economic Belt,” said Dirk Ahlborn, Hyperloop CEO in a statement.

The hyperloop project in Tongren is expected to cost about 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) and will be divided into two phases. The first phase, which will cost about 2 billion yuan ($290 million), is a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) route that will connect Tongren’s airport to the city. The second part is a 50-kilometer (31-mile) route that connects the city to Mount Fanjing, a popular tourist destination in Guizhou, according to People’s Daily. A Hyperloop representative tells Quartz construction will begin early next year, but did not provide a timeframe for its completion.

Even though many countries, including the US, Abu Dhabi, and the Czech Republic, have signed deals to build hyperloops, the technology remains in its infancy. So far, there have only been tests, some of which, such as the one in California that would link San Francisco and Los Angeles, have fallen behind schedule.

China already runs the world’s longest high-speed rail line, and it’s also looking to develop its own supersonic transportation system that can travel over three times the speed of sound.