A company that is designing ultra-high-speed transportation technology hopes the province will support its proposal for a privately funded link it says would get people from Edmonton to Calgary in about 30 minutes.
TransPod is behind the high-speed hyperloop system, which would see pressurized passenger and cargo vehicles travel in a low-pressure tube environment. The vehicles would be powered by electrically-driven magnetic propulsion, according to the company.
“We’re designing and building a vehicle that is going to travel in a tube where you remove, actually, most of the air to be able to achieve similar speed as an aircraft. Thanks to electromagnetic propulsion,” TransPod CEO and co-founder Sebastien Gendron said in an interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR Tuesday.
“It’s literally an aircraft without wings,” he explained.
“All the technology we’re using is coming from the aerospace industry. You need a cabin, a pressurized cabin, so people can breathe inside the same way we do it on an aircraft. All the options exist similar to what we have on an aircraft. The fuselage itself is really similar. So it doesn’t look like a train.”
The tube transportation system would follow the QEII between Alberta’s two largest cities. The technology has the capacity to top out at speeds of 1,000 km/h, according to CEO.
“The basic reaction of people is, ‘Oh, my God. It’s going to be insane for the human body and so on.’ But it’s not. The acceleration and deceleration will be similar to a subway,” Gendron said.
“So you’ll need 25 minimum to 50 kilometres to go to top speed and same to decelerate. So really basically a transportation system which can go at a much higher speed than what we know today.”
Gendron said the vehicles would be 25 metres long, about the same size as a train coach or bus. Each vehicle would hold about 50 people, or 10 tonnes of freight, he said. The plan outlines stops in downtown Calgary, at the Calgary airport, in Red Deer and at the Edmonton airport.
Gendron said the tube transportation would be powered by a combination of solar and electrical energy.
The concept as it stands would be funded “100 per cent private,” Gendron said.
There is not yet any full-scale lines of its kind up and running, Gendron added.
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The CEO said the previous government set aside about 10 kilometres of land, along Highway 2 about an hour north of Calgary, for the company to build the first phase of the project and complete the validation of the system’s technology. However, Gendron said while they had the right to build the test track, the then-NDP government wanted them to dismantle the line after it was finished the test phase.
“We can’t do that. We have to provide visibility to those investors financing that initial phase that they’re looking at a return on investment … To finance that test track, it has to be part of a future commercial line.”
Now, TransPod is seeking a letter of support from the UCP government.
“Our private investors are looking at the path to contract, so they’re ready to take the lead in the early stage risk with us now,” Gendron said.
“They need clear support from the government that if the technology works, we have the right to build the full line. Of course, if it doesn’t work, we decommission everything and leave it the way it was before we arrived.”
In a statement, the UCP said it is “open to hearing new and innovative private-sector proposals to increase transportation options for Albertans.
“We have not yet received a proposal from TransPod, but look forward to reviewing it if and when we receive it,” said a statement from Alberta Transportation Tuesday.
Alberta NDP spokesperson Leah Ward confirmed it told the company that if it could get the dollars to move forward, it would provide land for a test space in one of its transportation utility corridors.
“We did this to help the company secure federal financing and grants,” Ward said Tuesday.
Gendron is in Alberta this week in hopes of drumming up support for the plan.
“I would say that if the UCP government is open for business, this is typically a project where the level of risk is fairly low.”
The company would like to begin construction on the first phase at the beginning of 2022. He estimates 12 to 18 months of construction, followed by two years of testing to ensure it’s safe for passengers and goods.
“We are looking at certification in 2025 by a regulatory body such as Transport Canada or the transportation commission from the European Union.”
If all goes to plan, Gendron hopes the full line would be ready by 2030.
Gendron estimates a one-way ticket would cost between $40 and $60.