Virgin Hyperloop One has been making inroads in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a little while, having already presented its vision for a route connecting cities across the Middle East, including a 12-minute link between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Now it has unveiled a prototype pod developed together with Dubai's transport authority, offering locals a little glimpse at a potential future of subsonic tube travel.

The route between Dubai and Abu Dhabi was first flagged in November 2016, and last year the company described a wider network connecting cities around the region, including Kuwait City, Jedda in Saudi Arabia and Muscat in Oman.

The 139-km (86-mi) trip between Abu Dhabi and Dubai currently takes around one-and-a-half hours by car, and Hyperloop One has said that 4,000 vehicles travel the route daily, costing the economy US$800 million in lost working hours. The project remains a proposal only, but Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd is in the Emirati capital of Dubai spruiking its potential.

"A Hyperloop network that runs from Jeddah to Riyadh, to Abu Dhabi to Dubai as a backbone from the Red Sea to the Arabian sea is an amazing opportunity and would transform the potential movement of goods and the mobility of people and have a dramatic impact on the economic development and continued growth in the region," Lloyd told Middle Eastern publication The National.

Virgin Hyperloop One is visiting Dubai for UAE Innovation Week, and is showing off a full-scale model of a Hyperloop pod. This is different to the prototype passenger pod it shuttled along its Nevada test track at 387 km/h (240 mph) in December last year, and is more a look at the luxury it imagines Hyperloop passengers will one day be treated to.

Images show a very spacious cabin, with a sleek touchscreen embedded in the armrest and seats angled to offer a little extra leg room, first class air travel-style. A lot of development still stands between the Hyperloop in its current form and its promised speeds of 700 mph (1,126 km/h), so how closely this prototype resembles any eventual reality of subsonic tube travel remains to be seen. But hey, for now, it's nice to imagine.

View gallery - 4 images