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Canadian hyperloop company says ultra-high-speed travel between Calgary and Edmonton is feasible

Canadian hyperloop company TransPod has completed a feasibility study of the implementation of an ultra-high-speed transportation line between Calgary and Edmonton.

The company says it expects to have private funding secured for the first portion of the line by the end of the year.

TransPod’s ultimate goal is to have Albertans shuttling between Calgary and Edmonton in train-like pods — at speeds up to 1,000 kilometres an hour — through magnetic tubes.

In August 2020, Toronto-based TransPod announced it had inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the province that supported the company — but offered no funding — in further studying the feasibility of the technology in Alberta, sharing transportation data and identifying suitable land for a test track.

On Friday, the company released the findings from the feasibility study. It said initial investment proposals for a total amount of $1 billion have been shared with the government.

TransPod co-founder and CEO Sebastian Gendron said the completion of the study moved the project into the next phase of investment and research and development.

“The next step is securing — so we have two proposals for half a billion to finance those first 20 kilometres and we must confirm that before the end of this year,” he said.

“Then we’ll start the process of looking at the land acquisition or land agreements between the Edmonton airport and the city and public consultation, construction permits and environmental assessments.”

sebastien gendron
Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of Transpod, a Canadian hyperloop company. (Tony Seskus/CBC)

In total, the feasibility study has forecast the project to cost an estimated $22.4 billion, or $45.1 million per kilometre along roughly 350 kilometres of unique track.

It also forecasts an additional cost of $6.7 billion for fixed infrastructure-like stations.

In 2020, the company estimated that to build the full line it would cost between $6 billion and $10 billion, but Gendron said the new cost analysis includes land acquisition costs.

Study findings indicate hyperloop transportation between the two cities would help reduce the province’s carbon emissions by 636,000 tonnes per year.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver said Alberta has a history of innovation and entrepreneurial enterprise.

“That’s why we’re excited TransPod’s feasibility study points toward a possible safe and clean ultra-high-speed passenger and cargo link between Calgary and Edmonton,” he said in an emailed statement.

The company hopes to have a test track constructed and complete high speed tests from 2022 to 2027, with construction of the full inter-city line between Edmonton and Calgary to begin in 2025.

“The option of Red Deer was considered, however it would be adding an additional billion to the infrastructure cost,” said Gendron.

A release from the company claims the project “will create up to 140,000 jobs” but its full study explains that number was arrived at by multiplying annual “full-time equivalent” positions over a period of nine years.

“In Alberta, over 140,000 FTE-years worth of jobs are expected to be created, or an average of 15,556 per year over the nine year period,” the study says.

Just under half of those “FTE-years” would be “direct,” according to the study; the remainder would be “indirect” or “induced” jobs from anticipated economic spin-off effects.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he’s encouraged to see a project like this come forward with private funding. (CBC)

“The objective is really to make this project as inclusive as possible and to address any concerns,” said Gendron.  

“We already started to reach out to some of the First Nations, for example, and we’re working with the Building Trades of Edmonton to make it happen and create jobs.”

McIver said it’s encouraging to see a project like this brought forward and financed with private capital.

“Since day one, Alberta’s government has been focused on making our province the most attractive place in North America for innovators and the incredible opportunities they bring. That work is paying off.”

Tickets on the ultra-high-speed hyperloop would cost riders around $90 for an economy ticket and up to $150 for business class tickets.

A one-way trip would take about 45 minutes. It would carry a mix of passengers and cargo.

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