As tech companies like Elon Musk’s Boring Company and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies race to roll out the first fully operational hyperloop systems, Virgin Hyperloop One is trying to cement its image as a transportation company first and foremost.
Today, Virgin Hyperloop One announced Jay Walder as its new CEO. Walder most recently served as the CEO of Motivate, but previously headed up of some of the world’s largest transportation systems, including the MTA in New York City and MTR in Hong Kong. Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO of the massive port operator DP world, will become the new chairman of the board after Richard Branson stepped down last month.
These new appointments come right as Virgin Hyperloop One is ramping up its plans to implement a hyperloop between Pune and Mumbai in India–a 93-mile journey that hyperloop technology, reportedly, could shrink from four hours to 25 minutes. If the Indian government, which has already given initial go-ahead to Virgin Hyperloop One on the project, gives a final green light, the company will start construction on an 11-kilometer test loop of the route next year. (It’s already built a 500-meter test track in Las Vegas.)
Walder tells Fast Company that he sees his appointment as an opportunity to translate his experience working within governments on large transit projects to “the first really new and innovative transportation technology in over 100 years.” While he’s excited about the tech, he’s most drawn to the potential to move people (and cargo) more efficiently between cities. “That’s where my background comes in–we didn’t just move trains, we moved people,” he says.
Walder also wants to distance Virgin Hyperloop One from the Silicon Valley ethos that’s caused tension between cities and transit technology. “This is not the disruption case of Uber coming into cities,” he says. “This has to be a cooperative project with government. There’s no possible path forward that’s not aligned in that way.”
As Virgin Hyperloop One has made no secret of its intent to build national high-speed networks, Walder can surely expect to be doing a lot of collaborating in the not-so-distant future.