Richard Branson, Elon Musk and a Russian venture capital firm want to whisk you in a sealed pod from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

In what could be bad news for the airline industry, Branson, Musk and the Russians are serious about it to the tune of $295 million, and Branson has just been named the new chief of the effort.

About two months after announcing plans to invest in Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One — the company working to make the high- speed vacuum-tube transportation concept a reality — billionaire Branson has been named chairman of the firm, which is being renamed Virgin Hyperloop One.

Branson, founder of Virgin Group, sank an undisclosed amount of money into the company, which on Monday announced another $50 investment from Russia- based Caspian Venture Capital and Dubai port operator DP World. The latest investments bring the company’s overall fundraising efforts to about $295 million since 2014.

“I am excited by the latest developments at Virgin Hyperloop One and delighted to be its new chairman,” Branson said. “The recent investment by our partners Caspian Venture Capital and DP World sets up the company to pursue opportunities in key markets in the Middle East, Europe and Russia as it develops game-changing and innovative passenger and cargo ground transport systems.”

Virgin Hyperloop One is working to develop a hyperloop system, a high- speed transportation concept put forth by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who invited entrepreneurs to make his proposal a reality. Virgin Hyperloop One has made major advances in the process, building a full-scale test site in the Nevada desert.

In conjunction with the announcement of Branson as the company’s new chairman, the firm said Monday it has reached speeds of 387 kilometers per hour, or about 240 mph, at its Nevada DevLoop test site. Musk has suggested a hyperloop system — with passenger-carrying pods zipping through vacuum tubes — could ultimately travel at speeds as high as 700 mph, cutting the commute between Los Angeles and San Francisco to about 30 minutes.

–City News Service

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