The British billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist chairs Virgin Hyperloop One, one of a few companies racing to develop the technology that it’s hoped will revolutionize transportation of people and goods. And he sees it becoming operational in the next two to three years.
“The reason I became chairman of this company, I found this ridiculously exciting,” Branson told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview. “I think if we can build Virgin Hyperloops in a number of different countries, connecting countries, that will bring the world much closer.”
First envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk in 2013, hyperloop transport promises to be faster than air travel but at a fraction of the cost. The concept is designed to propel pods through a large tube underground at speeds of 750 mph using magnets.
Its developers hope to implement the technology around the globe. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been invested in designing the systems.
“When you’re talking about the pods going at 6, 7, 800 miles an hour, both with people and cargo, that’s tremendously exciting,” he said, describing the ability it will allow people to avoid traffic jams by “jumping into a pod.”
The conversation took place as Virgin Hyperloop One and its major investor, Dubai-based port operator DP World, announced a joint collaboration to launch DP World Cargospeed, which plans to develop hyperloop transport for cargo. Branson also discussed his plans to break ground in India as well as announce projects in new countries within the next few months.
In terms of making hyperloop travel a reality, this isn’t a long term dream anymore, the CEO said.
“We’re talking about two to three years away, not many years away. My children and grandchildren are going to want the same things as I’m going to want — they’re going to want to get to places quicker.”
In terms of what’s on the agenda, the Virgin Group founder talked about his aspirations beyond earth — already underway.
“About 10 days ago, [we had] a very successful flight of our spaceship — in the next few weeks hopefully another one,” Branson said, referring to the April 5 launch of Virgin Galactic’s first rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its new spacecraft, Unity.
The test flight was a crucial milestone before the company moves forward with its aim of sending tourists to space.
“We’re on the cusp of fulfilling our dream which has taken 30 years,” Branson said. “We’ve had 800 engineers working for 13 years on this project, but we hope in the not too distant future to be starting to send people into space.”
— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report