A high-speed train project between Edmonton and Calgary, proposed in April 2018, is in the hands of the United Conservative government.
Sebastien Gendron, CEO of tech startup TransPod, says the $6-billion project, funded entirely by the private sector, is in its initial stages.
The Canadian tech company has asked the UCP government for a commitment for the project before securing $100 million from the private sector.
The initial investment would be used for 10 kilometres of track, located between Olds and Didsbury, along the QEII Highway near highways 27 and 582.
“So the former government gave us 10 kilometres of land, and on our side, we have investors who have told us of the intention to finance this track.
“What they’re asking of me, is to have the government (on board first),” said Gendron on Tuesday.
If the project proceeds, the bullet-type train, called the TransPod Hyperloop, would cut the travel time between Calgary and Edmonton from three hours to about half an hour.
Gendron expects to hear back from the provincial government this fall.
Provided the Alberta government supports the project, the CEO said he will secure the initial $100 million in financing next year and launch the administrative work for the initiative.
The goal is to start construction on the 10-kilometre line in 2021 and finish it by 2023. Two years will then be dedicated to safety and testing and approvals to meet Transport Canada criteria.
Construction of the full project is expected to start in 2025, and the train would be operational by 2030.
“But before we start the 10 kilometres, we need to have the commitment. That’s if (technology) is working, we can build the full 300 kilometres between the two cities.
“So we need that decision by the government,” he explained. “For our investors, we want to mitigate the risk. They want to make sure the government won’t change their mind later on.”
Faster than airline travel, the TransPod tube is a fully-electric mass transportation system. The 1,000 km/h train would make four stops throughout the 300-kilometre line: downtown Calgary, Calgary International Airport, Red Deer and Edmonton International Airport.
The train would operate much like an aircraft, in a low-pressure vacuum tube.
“You need to remove most of the air, to avoid friction, and it’s how you can achieve (speed) similar to an aircraft, thanks to magnetic propulsion and levitation systems,” he said.
“So in theory, it’s a bullet train, but looks like an aircraft without wings.”
A report released Tuesday proposed a high-speed rail link connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. The service would reportedly cut the travel time between each city to under an hour and boost the economy of the region.
The TransPod would boost Alberta’s economy and create jobs, Gendron says.
Gendron said there is enough ridership to justify infrastructure between Calgary and Edmonton, adding the TransPod would provide safety to drivers, protect from harsh Alberta winters, diversify the economy and bring optimism to the region.
“In Canada, there are two economically viable corridors: Toronto-Montreal and Calgary-Edmonton,” he said.
The project website states the overall capacity of the line is flexible and adjustable to cargo transportation. Freight and passenger pods would follow each other in the tubes, with freight travelling during off-peak hours.