US-based Virgin Hyperloop, which had expansion plans for the Indian market, has reportedly laid off nearly half of its staff.

The company confirmed to the Financial Times that 111 people had been laid off as it plans to switch focus from passengers to cargo.

“Two of the people who lost their jobs said that the lay-offs were announced via video conference. One said the scale of the cuts was a’definitely not expected’,” the report said late on Tuesday.

“It’s allowing the company to respond in a more agile and nimble way and in a more cost-efficient manner. These types of decisions are never taken lightly,” the company said in a statement.

The company is “changing direction”, it added. “It really has more to do with global supply chain issues and all the changes due to Covid.”

Virgin Hyperloop said the logistics market had changed “dramatically” and that it was responding to strong customer interest in a cargo-based service.

Hyperloop is a new transport mode under development to enable the high-speed movement of hundreds of people and goods at a time in floating pods through tubes or tunnels above or below the ground.

In 2020, Virgin Hyperloop successfully tested human travel in a hyperloop pod for the first time.

The test took place at the company’s DevLoop test track in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada, and the first two passengers were Virgin Hyperloop’s CTO and co-founder Josh Giegel and director of passenger experience, Sara Luchian.

The speed at which the hyperloop pod traveled was nearly 160 km per hour during the test but eventually, the goal is to make humans travel via these airless tubes at speeds of up to 1,223 km per hour.

Virgin Hyperloop was founded in 2014 to make Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a futuristic transportation system.

In 2020, the Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru and Virgin Hyperloop announced to jointly conduct a feasibility study to build a hyperloop corridor for high-speed transport between the airport and the city center.

Then Virgin chief executive Jay Walder had said that a hyperloop-enabled airport will not only allow faster travel but also create a 21st-century passenger experience and expand airport capacity.

“As India’s technology and innovation hub, we hope Bengaluru will embrace hyperloop as a way to keep pace, support clean growth and open new opportunities for the city,” Walder had said.

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