An ultra-high-speed tube-train project that “has the power to transform Alberta” could start construction as early as 2022, according to TransPod Inc.
But whether the Toronto transportation company’s futuristic hyperloop line will eventually stop in Red Deer, or bypass the city, is still up in the air.
It could depend on whether the provincial government makes a Red Deer stop a requirement of the project, said TransPod’s co-founder and CEO Sebastian Gendron on Friday.
“We are making a recommendation to the government to include Red Deer,” explained Gendron, who hopes this becomes part of the criteria for building the ultra-high-speed line in Alberta.
If a local stop isn’t mandated by the province, he suspects the private investors financing the line could object to spending about $1 billion more to create a Red Deer station, arguing this city of 100,000 people might not generate enough traffic to make this investment worthwhile.
TransPod is still intent on using all private investment for the ultra-high-speed transportation system and not asking the Alberta government for financing, said Gendron.
But he hopes the government eventually becomes involved, in terms of setting project criteria and guidelines for the project.
“It makes sense that Red Deer have a station,” said Gendron, who noted the intent was always to “be inclusive” and have a mid-way stop. He feels this would be best for Alberta’s economy, and not just the regional economy.
With lower land costs in Red Deer, he believes more corporations could be attracted to setting up in Alberta, knowing they have a quick access to the larger centres.
Gendron’s company aims to have people travelling between Calgary and Edmonton at speeds of up to 1,000 km per hour while seated in futuristic pods that would shoot through a sealed tube.
TransPod’s hyperloop line would be powered by electricity. Pods at the tube station would come and go every few minutes, much like subway trains, allowing customers to board and depart spontaneously rather than needing to pre-book tickets.
The company’s just released feasibility study shows a one-way trip between Calgary and Edmonton taking about 45 minutes and costing $90.
Trips between Red Deer and Calgary, and Red Deer and Edmonton, would each cost about $50 one-way and take under half an hour.
The study found this transportation method could be offered at a low enough cost to be “affordable to the masses, while still profitable enough “to ensure that the system is not a loss-generator, requiring taxpayer subsidies.”
Gendron said the study’s completion pushes the project into the next phase of investment, as well as research and development.
An initial investment of $1 billion would be needed for the project that would cost an estimated $22.4 billion (or about $45.1 million per kilometre) to build about 350 kilometers of track between Calgary and Edmonton.
An additional $6.7 billion would also be needed for fixed infrastructure, such as stations.
Gendron said investors have already been lined up to finance the whole project.
The company hopes to have a test track constructed and high-speed tests completed from 2022 to 2027. Construction of the entire inter-city line between Edmonton and Calgary would begin in 2027 at earliest and continue until 2031, or 2035 at latest — so there’s still lots of time to consider the viability of a Red Deer station, said Gendron.
An economic analysis indicates TransPod would contribute $1.9 billion annually to Alberta’s economy. The project would remove a third of the traffic between Calgary and Edmonton, reduce accidents, and remove an average of 636,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year through fewer cars and airplane trips.
About 140,000 full-time equivalent jobs are expected to be created during the construction period of over nine years.