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Richard Branson announces Hyperloop plan for India

British tycoon Richard Branson believes Virgin Hyperloop One could have a positive impact on India (AFP Photo/Joshua LOTT)

Virgin Hyperloop One, the futuristic transport startup backed by British tycoon Richard Branson, has announced plans for a superfast rail network linking India's financial capital Mumbai to the city of Pune.

The proposed hyperloop -- which aims to deliver transport at near-supersonic speeds in sealed tubes -- would reduce travel time between the Indian cities from 3 hours to around 25 minutes, the company said.

Branson said Sunday the company had signed a preliminary agreement with the Maharashtra state government to build the first phase of a hyperloop network that could eventually criss-cross India.

"I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century," Branson said in a statement.

The proposed route would connect Mumbai's secondary airport in Navi Mumbai with Pune city, located 150 kilometres away.

Branson, whose Virgin Group entered a partnership with California startup Hyperloop One in October, said a demonstration track would be built within two to three years of the final agreement.

The super-high-speed transport project would take a further five to seven years to complete before being ready to ferry 150 million passengers annually, the company said.

The technology, theorized by entrepreneur Elon Musk for rail transport at near-supersonic speeds, could transform Indian cities like Mumbai and Pune plagued by creaking infrastructure.

Experts say the proposed hyperloop system, though aspirational, could upon completion ease the load on overburdened road and rail networks in India.

Virgin Hyperloop One is working to develop a pod system that can travel at up to 750 miles per hour with better safety than passenger jets, and lower build and maintenance costs than high-speed trains.