Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of Dubai-based ports operator DP World, has been elected as new chairman of US-based Virgin Hyperloop One, Dubai Media Office said in a statement.

DP World is the largest single investor in Virgin Hyperloop One.

Bin Sulayem will replace UK billionaire Richard Branson.

Last month, Branson said the firm is pulling out of the planned Virgin Hyperloop One project in Saudi Arabia.

MEED reported earlier this year that DP World and US-based Virgin Hyperloop One expect to begin construction on the first section of a commercial Hyperloop-based system, capable of transporting passengers and cargo between cities, in the first quarter of 2019.

The first 15 kilometre-section of the 150km Hyperloop system, linking Pune and Mumbai in India, is expected to become operational between 2024 and 2025, by which time both firms expect to have obtained all required regulatory approvals and certifications for the ultra-fast transport system.

Both firms said they were in final negotiations with investors to finance the project.

“We have not encountered a major issue in terms of securing investors,” a Virgin Hyperloop One spokesperson tells MEED.

The route will become the first segment of DP World’s Cargospeed, a planned global Hyperloop network connecting the various ports operated by DP World, as well as airports around the world, and catering to high-priority and on-demand cargo.

In India, DP World operates the Port of Nhava Sheva, the largest maritime hub in the vicinity of Mumbai.

Cargospeed is a much larger scheme compared with DP World’s initial plan to build a Hyperloop-based system that would move cargo from docked ships to an inland terminal at Jebel Ali Port.

Also expected to become part of the Cargospeed network is the Hyperloop system planned by Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (RTA). This could connect Dubai’s downtown area to the southern part of the emirate, and possibly to the new Al-Maktoum International airport.

Feasibility studies for both schemes were completed last year, and MEED understands construction work on the Dubai Hyperloop test route could begin within two to three years.

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