In a statement, cited by Reuters, Branson said the company would require more time than he could devote to the company:
At this stage in the company’s evolution, I feel it needs a more hands-on Chair, who can focus on the business and these opportunities. It will be difficult for me to fulfill that commitment as I already devote significant time to my philanthropic ventures and the many business within the Virgin Group.
A coalition of Missouri business leaders and government agencies joined with the Los Angeles-based company a year ago to create a feasibility study of a hyperloop in their state. The study examined where the ultrafast transportation system should be built (along the I-70 corridor), how many riders it would attract (6,000 during peak hours), and how much money it could save commuters who rode the high-speed transit system ($410 million per year).
St. Louis to Kansas City is a 248-mile route that takes around three hours and 40 minutes by car, or about 55 minutes by plane (not including time spent traveling to the airport, security lines, etc.). Virgin Hyperloop One says the trip would take just 31 minutes using its system of aerodynamic pods traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to 700 mph. That depends on building hundreds of miles of tubes on pylons along a highway like I-70, which the study identifies as the ideal location.
“In the United States, I-70 is one of the strongest corridors we’ve seen,” Kelly said. “Not only do you have the right-of-way, but it’s relatively straight and flat, which is perfect for the first hyperloop system.”
As well, the independent report found that Virgin Hyperloop One’s linear infrastructure’s cost would clock in at about 40-percent lower than high-speed rail projects. Despite the lower cost, the hyperloop system would offer much faster speeds at up to three times the rate of high-speed rail alternatives.