By KARL TOMUSK
While hyperloop projects around the world stall or get scrapped entirely, a Toronto startup has secured funding to develop a high-speed tube transportation line between Edmonton and Calgary.
TransPod’s plans claim that it could cut the journey between the two cities from three hours to 45 minutes and add $19.2bn to Alberta’s GDP by 2030.
In a vote of confidence, the UK’s Broughton Capital Group and the Chinese state-owned China-East Resources Import & Export Company agreed in principle to provide a combined $550m to fund the project.
“As the first and only company to confirm such finance for a multibillion dollar tube transportation infrastructure project, TransPod is proud of its commitment to driving growth in Alberta through true innovation and partnership,” said Sebastian Gendron, co-founder and CEO of the startup.
Expected to complete in 2030, the line has the potential to cut carbon emissions by 636,000 tonnes per year by removing some cars and planes from circulation and by generating solar power along the route, TransPod said.
The financing comes just weeks after the Financial Times reported that Virgin Hyperloop would refocus on transporting cargo instead of passengers.
Speaking to the newspaper, the company, which carried out the world’s first hyperloop passenger trial in 2020, cited supply chain issues and Covid for its decisions.
Meanwhile, in the US, a possible route from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Chicago, Illinois has ground to a halt as it awaits federal government approval for hyperloop technology.
Although the concept of hyperloop – networks of tubes that propel passenger or cargo pods at speeds of up to 700mph or more – was famously proposed by Tesla founder Elon Musk in 2012, the idea of travelling in tubes dates back more than 200 years.
While Musk himself has shifted his focus away from the concept, companies like HyperloopTT are trying to prove that tube-based transport is more than a pipe dream. In Italy, it recently signed memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Infrastructure to develop a hyperloop system in the Veneto region.
Others, like Nevomo, are positioning themselves as hyperloop-adjacent, developing rail infrastructure that allows for conventional and magnetic levitation trains to run on the same track with the aim of making high-speed rail less expensive to develop.
Earlier this year, Nevomo completed the first stage of construction on a 700m test track for its MagRail idea in southeast Poland.
TransPod – which in its latest announcement ditched the hyperloop label, instead referring to itself as a “tube transportation system” – has set out a broad timeline for its Alberta project:
- Short-term: Research and development; construction permit; environmental assessment; land acquisition (present-2024)
- Medium-term: Test track construction, high-speed tests, and certification (2023-2027)
- Long-term: Construction of a full inter-city line between Edmonton and Calgary (to begin in 2027)
Gendron said: “The construction and operation of a TransPod Line will help Albertans move around easily, create new jobs, and facilitate investment into the region. With the confidence of our investors and the government of Alberta, we will deliver on a joint vision of a progressive, sustainable, and growing economy.”