Could a hyperloop be built in Australia?

Australian representatives have expressed interest in the TransPod system, a sci-fi like concept from Canada, where discussions are underway between hopeful scientists, developers and the community on a  hyperloop to connect the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta.

If implemented a similar system could have Australians travelling through tubes at speeds of more than 1000 km/h in the next two decades. It’s a long way off.

TransPod estimates it will cost about 44% less than a plane ticket, and will reduce CO2 emissions by 636,000 tonnes a year.

TransPod describes itself as “the world’s leading ultra-high-speed ground transportation system”, although it has yet to build any infrastructure.

CEO and co-owner, Sebastien Gendron, told Cosmos the technology is based on a concept that has been around for more than a century, where 25m-long, pod-like vehicles levitate through a tube where friction has been reduced by the removal of air. It is, he says, a plane without wings.

The company’s feasibility study for the Alberta project notes: “Powered by sustainable solar/electric energy in a system that is unaffected by weather conditions, the TransPod system enables passenger and cargo to travel faster than aircraft, creating  a reliable mass transportation system.”

TransPod’s system was invented by scientist Dr Ryan Janzen, co-owner of TransPod, who set out to create a practical and safe version of high-speed tube transportation.

It’s still a big call for investment given the price tag of billions of dollars, the need for construction of corridors, and the fact that until the Alberta line is fully operational – probably not until about 2035 – no one will have seen the safe delivery of the first passenger.

Also in Cosmos: The hyperloop alternative to a very fast train

But the system is already attracting interest in Australia. Gendron says there has been interest from the Port of Melbourne, and Australia is currently number two on the list of potential countries with Melbourne to Sydney identified as a prime potential route, followed by Sydney to Brisbane.

“That’s the goal we’re going to push,” Gendron says. “I have to say that I am quite confident.

“There has been some traction in Canada and the US, and we will have more and more interest from Australia in what we do.”

Artist concept of possible hyperloop construction
Artist concept of possible hyperloop construction in Alberta, Canada.

Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio was a member of a delegation from the Council of Mayors of South East Qld (COMSEQ) to look at TransPod technology in Vancouver.

COMSEQ aims to turn South East Queensland into a “45-minute region”, with all urban trips possible within 30 minutes, and all city-to-city trips possible within 45 minutes, even in peak times.

It’s a goal that is some way off, says Antonio, with the current rail system sometimes taking more than three hours to go the distance.

“We need a fast train,” Antonio says. “And this goes well beyond the fast train concept.

“If the Canadian one goes well, then I think this is the future.”

COMSEQ opted not to proceed with further investigations of the technology until the Alberta route is in operation, but Antonio already is approaching businesses within Toowoomba to gauge support for the option.

In Alberta, negotiations with farmers and landholders have begun. Gendron says unlike conventional transport corridors, the route does not interfere with use of the land, with the infrastructure to be built above farmland and buildings.

It seems unlikely a TransPod system will be in operation in Australia before Brisbane hosts the 2032 Olympics but, Antonio says, you never know.

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