A Canadian company hoping to build what it bills as the future of public transportation will seek permits this week to set up a testing centre in central France for developing super-fast "hyperloop" trains.
Transpod co-founder Sebastien Gendron told AFP that his company would file its application Friday with officials in the Haute-Vienne region for a 3km track, which it claims would be the longest in the world.
It is one of several groups developing the technology, which aims to transport people in train-like "pods" through low-pressure tubes that would reduce atmospheric friction, allowing travel at nearly the speed of sound.
High-profile investors including Elon Musk, the head of electric car pioneer Tesla, and Virgin's Richard Branson have also put their financial muscle behind hyperloop projects.
Transpod, which has raised nearly $58m from North American and Italian investors, aims to build its first commercial line running at 1 000 km/h by 2030, Gendron said.
The technology "will make humans and freight travel on earth as fast as a plane, while feeling like you're in the metro", Gendron said.
It chose the town of Droux - population 400 - north of the central city of Limoges for the 21-million-euro project after intense lobbying by enthusiastic local officials.
"The state needs to act as a facilitator in this case because, whether or not its the future of transportation, the possibility of a research facility on this scale can only benefit the region's reputation and its university," said Raphael Le Mehaute, the government's representative in the Haute-Vienne department.
Transpod said it would unveil French and international partners for the project this autumn - the national train operator SNCF has already invested in Virgin Hyperloop One, which announced this week plans to build a $500m research site in Spain.
France is already home to a research site for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, an American company which is operating in Toulouse, southwest France.
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