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Virgin Hyperloop One recruits former MTA chief as CEO

The company has changed leadership again. Virgin Hyperloop One's mission to redefine transport is, once again, going to be led by new people as the company announces a new chairman and CEO. Replacing Sir Richard Branson as head of the board is his Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the head of DP World. The outgoing CEO Rob Lloyd, meanwhile, is being succeeded by transportation veteran Jay Walder (pictured), former head of the MTA. Branson stepped down from his role on the board at the end of October, saying that the company needed a more "hands-on" leader. The timing, however, suggested that his departure was trigged by his decision to end a proposed investment deal with Saudi Arabia. In the wake of the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Branson pulled out of a rumored agreement that would have seen $1 billion pumped into Virgin Group companies. Branson's board seat will be filled by Virgin's Patrick McCall. DP World chairman bin Sulayem has had a long relationship with Hyperloop One, and has invested in the company several times before. Both companies have also, together, launched a Hyperloop-for-cargo firm that would use the tubes to ship freight between DP World ports and major logistics centers. The sultan is a key figure in the Dubai business world, and has also served on that emirate's sovereign wealth fund. As part of the transition, the company says that DP World is now the biggest investor in Hyperloop One. The more surprising change is the exit of current CEO and investor Rob Lloyd, who was recruited by original co-founder Shervin Pishevar to run the company in 2015. Lloyd's replacement, Jay Walder, recently stepped down as CEO of Motivate, the operator of NYC's Citi Bike scheme. Walder's CV has seen the executive take up prominent positions in New York, London and Hong Kong's mass-transit business. Between 2001 - 2007, Walder was head of finance at Transport for London during which he helped introduce the Oyster card. He then became head of the MTA between 2009 and 2011 before serving a two-year stint as head of Hong Kong's MTRC, operator of the country's mass-transit railways. Walder will serve as a director at Hyperloop One as well, and his experience may prove valuable in the coming years. Hyperloop One is also pledging that, if India's government provides the proper authorization, it will begin building its proposed Pune - Mumbai route in 2019. The first stage will be the construction of a 6.8-mile test track, with further targets yet to be announced.

Virgin Hyperloop One taps Citi Bike’s Jay Walder as new CEO

Virgin Hyperloop One has found a new CEO, and its someone who knows a thing or two about running both big and small transportation systems. Jay Walder, who recently left his position as CEO of bike-share operator Motivate, will become the new chief executive of the futuristic transportation company. Walder will replace Rob Lloyd, who served as CEO for three years. The company also selected a new chairperson to replace Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, who stepped down last month. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of Dubais DP World, was named to that position. Walder is certainly an interesting choice with an impressive résumé. He ran New York Citys Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 2009 to 2011, after helping to overhaul Londons aging mass transit system to global acclaim. His tenure at the MTA was a bit bumpier. He oversaw the installation of countdown clocks and other technological improvements, but also a series of unpopular fare cuts and its worst service cuts in a generation. From there, he went on to run the MTR Corporation, a transportation company based in Hong Kong. In 2014, he joined Motivate as CEO, and led the turnaround of the companys largest bike-share system, Citi Bike in New York City. Launched in 2013, Citi Bike was popular with New Yorkers, yet it was in financial and operational trouble when Walder took over the following year. He re-energized the program with new software, new bicycles, and an expansion that eventually doubled the number of bikes in the system to 12,000. Motivate was acquired by ride-hail giant Lyft in July 2018. The company, which is being renamed Lyft Bikes, is the largest bike-share operator in the country by a wide margin, with franchises in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, among others. I have focused my career on using technology to advance innovation in transportation, so I could not pass up the opportunity to lead the company that has pioneered hyperloop, Walder said in a statement. Walder will oversee Virgin Hyperloop One as it enters its next crucial phase. The company, which aims to reduce travel times by operating carbon-fiber pods through nearly airless tubes at close-to supersonic speeds, has demonstrated its technology at its test site in Nevada. The company now plans to build its first fully operational hyperloop, most likely in India, where the government is interested in constructing a hyperloop in the Pune-Mumbai region. The company is also interested in building a hyperloop in Missouri. (A previous deal to build a hyperloop in Saudi Arabia fell through after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.) Bin Sulayems election as chairperson is less of a surprise. DP World, the global port operator, is on track to become Virgin Hyperloop Ones largest investor. Virgin Hyperloop One aims to transport both people and cargo through its super-fast system.