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Hyperloop One test track
Virgin Hyperloop One’s blue and black pod goes through Phase 3 testing at the company’s DevLoop site in Nevada. (Virgin Hyperloop One Photo)

Virgin Hyperloop One now officially has British billionaire Richard Branson as its chairman, along with $50 million more in funding for its rapid-transit development effort.

The company also reported that its test pod reached a top speed of 240 mph during its Phase 3 round of testing, which finished up last week. The tests took place at Virgin Hyperloop One’s 500-meter (1,640-foot) DevLoop test tunnel in Nevada.

Phase 3 tested the prototype pod’s electric motor, control system and magnetic levitation system, as well as the tunnel’s vacuum system and air lock.

Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One was founded in 2014, a year after the hyperloop concept was formulated by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. The plan is to create networks of depressurized transit tubes through which pods carrying passengers and cargo could travel at near the speed of sound.

Such a system could go between Seattle and Portland in 20 minutes, or between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles in a little more than half an hour.

Hyperloop One isn’t associated with Musk, but it’s been working on potential hyperloop projects with partners in Dubai, Russia and Finland as well as the state of Colorado and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In October, the company added the Virgin brand to its name and announced that Branson was joining in as an investor and board member. Today, Virgin Hyperloop One said Branson will be taking on the role of non-executive chairman.

Shervin Pishevar, was one of the founders of Hyperloop One and its co-executive chairman, but took a leave of absence from the company as well as his own venture capital firm in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Two of the company’s existing investors, Caspian Venture Capital (based in Cyprus but associated with Russia) and DP World (headquartered in Dubai), are investing $50 million more ahead of a Series C round of funding, according to today’s announcement from CEO Rob Lloyd and chief technology officer Josh Giegel.

Virgin Hyperloop One said the new investments bring the total financing raised to $295 million. Axios and Bloomberg News reported that the company had been running low on cash before fresh funding came in.

Branson was quoted as saying he was “excited by the latest developments at Virgin Hyperloop One and delighted to be its new chairman.” He said the new investments would set up the company “to pursue opportunities in key markets in the Middle East, Europe and Russia.”

Lloyd said that the company planned to focus on “accelerating commercial agreements for both passenger and cargo projects” in 2018.

Seattle-based Pacific Hyperloop has been working with Hyperloop One as well as regional experts to try to gain support for a Seattle-to-Portland hyperloop project. Another venture, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is also trying to commercialize hyperloop technology.

Meanwhile, Musk has set up the Boring Company to create high-speed, non-vacuum transit tunnels known as “Loops.” The Boring Company is currently focusing on routes in the Los Angeles area, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.

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