Saudi Arabia’s Economic Cities Authority (ECA) and US-based Virgin Hyperloop One have agreed to conduct a study to build the world’s longest test and certification hyperloop track, as well as a research and development (R&D) centre and hyperloop manufacturing facility north of Jeddah.

This reverses Saudi Arabia’s stance last year when it said it was pulling out of the plan to undertake a hyperloop study, following a statement from Virgin Hyperloop One’s then chairman Richard Branson that he intended to freeze ties with Saudi Arabia due to journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.

DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem has since replaced Branson.

The study will focus on King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), located some 100 kilometres north of Jeddah.

The proposed project includes a 35-kilometre test and certification track.

The hyperloop project is expected to create opportunities for the development of specific hyperloop technologies and local expertise in Saudi Arabia that can be “commercialised and scaled”.

The study will also facilitate the development of localised hyperloop supply chains and the acceleration of innovation clusters across Saudi Arabia, Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement.

A hyperloop project at King Abdullah Economic City will act as catalyst for the creation of a Saudi Silicon Valley, ECA secretary general Mohanud Helal said. The hyperloop test track and R&D facility are expected to be an anchor for KAEC’s software development, high technology research and manufacturing industries.

In parallel to the study, Prince Mohammad bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship is expected to publish an academic paper outlining the economic impact of a Hyperloop Centre of Excellence in KAEC. Experts from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) will also visit the Virgin Hyperloop One testing facility in Nevada to conduct a technical review, followed by the publication of an academic paper.

This article has been unlocked to allow non-subscribers to sample MEED’s content. MEED provides exclusive news, data and analysis on the Middle East every day. For access to MEED’s Middle East business intelligence, subscribe here