Battle of the hyperloops: HTT and Virgin go head-to-head in the Middle East

  • The competition to deliver "hyperloops" - super-fast, ground-based transportation systems, is heating up.
  • Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Virgin Hyperloop One are going head-to-head in the Middle East.
  • HTT's chairman said it owned the name "hyperloop."

The competition between hyperloop developers in the Middle East is heating up, with the two main operators — Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) and Virgin Hyperloop One — sniping over the use of the name "hyperloop" and territorial ambitions.

The chairman of HTT told CNBC that his company "owns" the brand name '"hyperloop" — the name given to a super-fast, ground-based transportation system, a concept of Tesla founder Elon Musk.

"We are the original hyperloop, we own the brand hyperloop," Bibop Gresta told's "Capital Connection on Monday."

"We are focused on passengers," he said. "We are the first company that actually brings this technology to reality, and we are building the first commercial line in Abu Dhabi."

HTT is among several companies developing the hyperloop. The system works by propelling pods through a large tube, using magnets, at speeds of up to 750 miles per hour.

HTT wants to build a high-speed transportation system in the Middle East that can reduce the travel time between cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

Bibop Gresta, chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
John Macdougall | AFP | Getty Images
Bibop Gresta, chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

In the Middle East, HTT's main competition comes from Virgin Hyperloop One and the pressure is on to see who can deliver a functioning system first.

Gresta told CNBC this month that HTT was about to start building a hyperloop track in Abu Dhabi with the aim of having it operational by 2020.

Meanwhile, Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson told CNBC on Sunday that he wants to see his company's hyperloop operational in the next two to three year. He said he sees the system connecting cities and countries around the world.

Virgin and Dubai-based port operator DP World also announced plans to transport cargo using the system.

HTT's Gresta said that he was happy that Virgin had "dropped the hyperloop name" but Branson suggested to CNBC over the weekend that a decision on the name had not yet been reached, saying "whether we actually keep the name hyperloop is something we are questioning because I think this company (Virgin Hyperloop One) is way ahead of all the others."

Connections

HTT has already started construction work on its hyperloop in Abu Dhabi, although its plans to expand the line to connect to other cities, such as Dubai, are uncertain for now.

The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) appeared to pour cold water on HTT at the weekend, appearing to dismiss "the validity" of plans — that it said were from HTT — to connect airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

But HTT's Gresta said his company was not yet talking about developing that link.

"We were not the company that was talking about this line," he said.

"Right now, we are building a commercial line in Abu Dhabi and we have an amazing relationship with the government there, we would be happy, in the future, to expand this line after connecting Abu Dhabi, to the other emirates and we would be happy to talk to RTA about this," he said.

Asked if HTT had spoken to the RTA yet, Gresta said HTT had been focused on completing its feasibility study that it had developed with the Abu Dhabi government and was now in Phase Two - the implementation of the system - of construction work in collaboration with Aldar.

"In the future we would be happy to expand this conversation but there is nothing concrete happening right now between the two emirates.