The Alberta government has thrown its support behind an ultra-high-speed transportation project that could see people travel between Edmonton and Calgary in about 30 minutes.
Toronto-based TransPod announced Tuesday that is has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Alberta to support the development of its hyperloop system.
The high-speed transportation system is being developed to carry passengers and cargo in a low-pressure tube environment at 1,000 km/h. Described as an aircraft without wings, the vehicles would be powered by electrically driven magnetic propulsion, according to the company.
The MOU will allow TransPod to begin the process of attracting private investment for the multi-billion-dollar project. It also means the company can begin a feasibility study and start on research and development.
The government has not committed any funding to the project, according to TransPod. The MOU means the province will support TransPod in undertaking further study on the feasibility of developing its technology in Alberta, share transportation data that may assist TransPod, work with company officials to identify suitable land that can safely accommodate a test track and participate in discussions with potential investors.
“Alberta’s government is supporting new and exciting opportunities for job creation and innovation,” Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver said in a Tuesday media release.
“By supporting TransPod’s feasibility study, Alberta Transportation will provide important information contributing to the research, development, testing and construction of a full inter-city TransPod line between Edmonton and Calgary. We look forward to seeing this work put Alberta at the forefront of the movement of goods and people.”
TransPod is developing the technology in collaboration with the European Union and United States transportation committees. The company touts its vehicle’s top speed as three times as fast as a high-speed train and faster than a jet, and says it travels at ground level in a protected guideway that is “immune to weather.”
“Alberta’s leadership mindset and partnership with TransPod firmly places it at the cutting edge of transportation innovation,” said Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of TransPod.
“Through this strategic agreement that secures the province’s economic future without having to commit any taxpayer dollars, the government of Alberta is investing in improving growth and quality of life in the region.”
“The space race’s technology led to massive spinoffs worldwide, and our vision for TransPod is to position Canada at a similar level of leadership,” said Ryan Janzen, co-founder and CTO of TransPod.
“Future transportation comes from breakthrough innovations — and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Last November, Gendron told Global News the previous NDP 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 that while TransPod had the right to build the test track, the then-NDP government wanted it to dismantle the line after it was finished the test phase.
The company says it is currently in the design and development phase for a testing facility in France.
Premier Jason Kenney said the project is a great reflection of Alberta’s leadership on technology and innovation.
“This is as-yet unproven technology in terms of of a large commercial application,” he said, “but we’re happy that the proponents have come to us and asked to do the research here in Alberta, and we’re excited to co-operate with them on that hyperloop research.
“There’s no cost to the taxpayer, and we’re not in the business of writing blank cheques for as-yet unproven technology. But we hope that if their research pans out here in Alberta, that maybe we will see further investments in this kind of important innovation in transportation technology.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was happy to hear Tuesday’s announcement and looks forward to seeing what happens from here.
“We’ve talked about high-speed rail for so long, since I was a little kid, between Calgary and Edmonton and if this is a technology that is really close to being real, then that could really make a huge difference for the Calgary-Edmonton-Red Deer tech corridor, as well as more safe movement of goods and people,” he said.
“I’m excited about it. I don’t know if it’s real, I don’t know if it’s science fiction but we’ll never know unless we continue to do more testing with folks other than one entrepreneur who talks about stuff a lot in the U.S.
“So I’m really pleased about that. I’m pleased that it’s a Canadian company that is doing the work and I think that Calgary-Edmonton — look, it’s a straight line and it’s flat Prairie in between — there will never be a better place to implement this technology if it works than here.”
In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Alberta Transportation said the province is excited that the MOU will help develop the technology right here in Alberta.
“Alberta’s government is always interested in empowering the private sector to innovate and create jobs for Albertans,” McKenzie Kibler said. “We’re focused on creating jobs and getting Albertans back to work and have not committed any funding to this or any future project.”
TransPod hopes to begin the feasibility study this year, with a goal of beginning test track construction and high-speed tests by 2022. The company’s long-term plan would see the construction of a full inter-city line between Edmonton and Calgary begin in 2025. The line would be in operation by 2030.
The project is estimated to create up to 38,000 jobs over 10 years, TransPod said.
TransPod estimates a one-way ticket would cost between $40 and $60.