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Business deals

Elon Musk's hyperloop to make China debut in far-flung province

Inland Belt and Road link Guizhou will host prototype transport system

A rendering of the Hyperloop to be built in Guizhou Province, provided by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
A rendering of the Hyperloop to be built in Guizhou Province, provided by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

CHONGQING -- The ultrafast hyperloop transport system championed by American entrepreneur Elon Musk will come to the relatively poor interior Chinese province of Guizhou under a joint venture announced on Thursday.

California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and a company under the government of the Guizhou city of Tongren will form a 50-50 partnership to build a nearly 10 km vacuum-sealed tube in which capsules can travel at the speed of sound thanks to the lack of air resistance.

Guizhou is one of China's least developed provinces. But its interior and southern location places it at a key site for land routes in Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, and it has been the target of heavy transportation investment of late, according to a press release marking the agreement. The rapid transit project is geared to "play into a bigger role of the Silk Road Economic Belt," Hyperloop Transportation CEO Dirk Ahlborn said.

The deal is China's first to host the technology promoted by Musk, the head of electric-vehicle company Tesla, who recently visited China and signed an agreement to build its first non-U.S. auto factory in Shanghai.

After evaluating the hyperloop trials, the partners hope to expand the tube and begin offering commercial transport services.

Top Tongren officials, including the mayor and the local Communist Party secretary, attended a signing ceremony in the provincial capital of Guiyang for the agreement, as did provincial officials and executives from China Railway Maglev Transportation Investment & Construction, a unit of state-owned China Railway Construction.

The provincial and local governments hope to stimulate tourism and the local economy using the futuristic transport system.

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