Every day over 130,000 vehicles travel the two- to three-hour journey between Mumbai, the financial center of the Indian State of Maharashtra, and Pune, the cultural capital known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ and home to growing automotive and IT sectors. As the population in the area increases, so do the traffic and emissions, making the corridor one of the State’s top infrastructure priorities.
Recognizing the tremendous transportation need in this corridor, the Indian State of Maharashtra today has announced their intent to build a hyperloop between the two cities and signed a historic agreement with Virgin Hyperloop One. The hyperloop route developed would link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai in 25-minutes, eventually enabling 150 million journeys and reducing greenhouse gases by 150,000 tons annually. The system would also have the potential for the rapid movement of palletized freight and light cargo between the Port of Mumbai and Pune, creating a robust freight backbone in the region.
At the helm of this ambitious project is the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) and its CEO Kiran Gitte. PMRDA looks to solve the State’s most significant infrastructure gaps and helps the State keep pace with the next 40 - 50 years of transport demand. Gitte recently shared his perspectives as to how Virgin Hyperloop One systems could benefit the region economically and socially.
Virgin Hyperloop One: Can you paint us a picture of what the transportation demand is like between Pune and Mumbai?
Gitte: Mumbai and Pune are the two largest cities in the Maharashtra State. Not only Maharashtra, but if you look at India, it’s one of the busiest transport corridors in the country. There is a very high-density of traffic between the two cities. We want to establish superfast connectivity. Specifically, we want to look at futuristic technology which can handle not only the present traffic but also the exponential growth which we'll see in these two cities. For that, we believe that hyperloop is the best technology available. In the last two to three months, we've had a very exciting pre-feasibility study, and I think the Mumbai-Pune region will be the first in the country which will see this hyperloop implemented. I think the geography demands it and the demography also demands it. The technology solution provided with hyperloop will solve many of the problems that we have on our hands.
Virgin Hyperloop One: How will hyperloop change the relationship between Pune and Mumbai?
Gitte: With hyperloop, we are connecting the two metro hubs. Both Mumbai and Pune have mass, rapid transport systems for intra-city movement. Within Mumbai, there are ten metro lines, and in Pune there are three lines. These lines connect the intra-city movement of the citizens. For inter-city movement, we will take the central part of Pune and central part of Mumbai and connect these two metro cities, which today have more than 25 million people and are rapidly growing. With these two metro cities, about 2.5 crore population will benefit by point-to-point connectivity with hyperloop and intra-city movement provided by the mass transit system.
Virgin Hyperloop One: How will this project impact Pune & Mumbai residents?
Gitte: Today, Mumbai is a more crowded place to live in because of land availability, and the city is built on a group of islands. If you want to live in Mumbai, you have to live in a suburb more than two hours from the central part of the city. Recently, there has been a paradigm shift because people commute the Mumbai-Pune route daily. And, this is going to increase because the expansion of both the Mumbai metro region and the Pune metro region that is happening at a very rapid pace. Now, these two cities are magnets attracting individuals further from all the states of India - it is not limited to Maharashtra.
We think hyperloop will have a huge impact on the economy of the region as a destination, and because of the climatic advantage that Pune has. Many people would like to stay in Pune and work in Mumbai which is not possible today. Also, there are business people who like to commute between these two cities. The time required to go to an airport, work, and then come back to the airport, and go back to the city is not cultural time-permitting. So, I think of the time value of money of the people because there is an economy of scale which you can take advantage of hyperloop. There is a huge impact on the industrial scenario and transportation scenario. The whole economic region will get a boost because of the hyperloop project.
Virgin Hyperloop One: How do local citizens feel about hyperloop?
Gitte: There is a lot of excitement among the young population, students, and the children born in the millennium -- those who do not have a lot of time or a lot of money. You need to understand, even for the common people in Mumbai, the average commuter spends at least two-and-a-half to three hours every day traveling. And, when you count between cities, it's about five hours.
Locally, the technology is the fascination. Some people believe in the project; some people think it's fiction. However, we’re on the verge of having a city-to-city connection, and we will have a demonstration track between the route so that people can come and see what kind of experience hyperloop can provide, which is truly a 21st-century phenomena. Once people see what’s possible and when people are attracted, I believe they will have huge expectations from the project. People living here should know that this project is super-fast, safe
Virgin Hyperloop One: You talk about how the economy will get a boost, how will the project impact the State’s economic centers?
Gitte: The economy of Pune and Mumbai, they’re our two primary economic centers. They form about 25 to 30 percent of the State’s GDP. I think this project will have a dramatic impact on the economy in terms of manufacturing the hyperloop and impacting regional supply chain. In the coming years, we will see more than 15,000 jobs, both direct and indirect, coming from this project. Hyperloop can impact just-in-time supply chain because we think just-in-time confers relative position, security, and assurance of shipments.
Typically, the GDP growth rate which we have today is around eight to nine percent in the Mumbai economic region. The hyperloop project has the capacity to increase the GDP after funding by two percentage points in growth every year. Huge economies of scale will come from the hyperloop project.
Virgin Hyperloop One: How are you going to overcome the challenges of such an ambitious project?
Gitte: Virgin Hyperloop One agrees that Pune-Mumbai is one of the best corridors that we have for this project in the whole world. But, there are definitely challenges. Between Mumbai and Pune, land is very, very costly. I think once we have a larger picture, the framework we are working on, we will deal with this. We will deal with it with the technology, the most modern technology developed, balancing this with the ecology, the passengers, and their existing concerns. And, then I think these additional challenges will disappear. There will be challenges in any transportation project. Hyperloop will need additional safety regulations and standards to meet the current age of technology. The technology development team at Virgin Hyperloop One has been very capable with the support of the government of Maharashtra, Pune, India, and the PM office. I’m confident that we have the right team to work on any challenges in times to come.
Virgin Hyperloop One: What would you say to the skeptics who might question embracing a new technology ahead of some of the other projects in the State?
Gitte: I would like to say to all the people in this region who have some questions regarding the quality of the technology and any safety issues. This is a part of any project. Understand that we have completed the pre-feasibility report within six-weeks. We are committed to complete the feasibility study in six-months with Virgin Hyperloop One. At the same time, within our state, many companies are committed to developing this project. I think that the technology and demonstration track will be very demonstrative. Our planned demonstration track and with further testing, I think will help us to answer questions people may ask. The people who have questions in mind, we welcome them. All people who have questions on the project can come to the demonstration track and see what we are doing.