Riding the rails
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
As Canada begins to bring itself out of the pandemic, it’s time to start looking towards how we are going to recover after this unprecedented damage that has been inflicted on Canada’s economy. One way I think Canada can get out of this economic hole is through spending on infrastructure.
Some may think this is unwise, that the solution of getting out of debt shouldn’t be spending more money, but in terms of an economy, spending money to get people to work has been how countries have gotten out of bad times before. The Great Depression led to The Hoover Dam and the New Deal in the United States, and the Trans-Canada Highway getting a large influx of cash. Considering all these examples are still in use today, I think that proves that spending on infrastructure is a sound way to bring the country back to economic health.
What infrastructure projects should we be considering? There are many possibilities, including more transportation options in Canadian cities and environmental initiatives that can help ween Canada off fossil fuels and help save the planet. However, in my opinion there is a form of infrastructure that we should pick above all else. It’s something that can link the country, connect us in ways we never have before, and it’s a technology that is long overdue in Canada: a high-speed rail and/or hyperloop.
Currently, Canada is the only nation in the G7 that does not have any kind of high-speed rail. There have been talks to bring a connection from Windsor to Quebec City, and Calgary and Edmonton, but they have never been realized. Canada not having high speed rail is a bit surprising considering that one of the main catalysts that brought Canada together was the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800’s.
It is easy to see though why Canada has not made a high-speed rail line. With how large and sparsely populated Canada is, it would cost a lot of money and time to get rail tracks put down. Hell, just getting through the treacherous Rocky Mountains may cost as much as connecting the rest of the country. It may also be hard to convince people that a line from Toronto to Montreal, which will take just as long of a trip (if not longer) than a plane and possibly cost more than a plane is a worthy investment. Adding the fact that cities like Toronto and Vancouver have grown so much that the trains would likely have to terminate far from the downtown cores and high-speed rail does not sound so appetizing. However, a new technology is coming that may solve many of these problems.
In 2013, Elon Musk began igniting interest in the concept of using hyperloop technology. Hyperloop technology, which uses the idea of pods being shot through a tube supported by air to reduce friction and create a faster ride, had been around since the mid 1800s, but it never advanced far enough to be considered a legitimate transportation option. In the last decade though, there have been companies trying to perfect hyperloop technology. By the looks of it, I think a working hyperloop could be possible in the near future.
Hyperloop technology has the chance to change Canadian society like no other innovation ever has. For example, it may be possible that a trip from Vancouver to Toronto could be done in about three hours—about an hour and a half faster than a current plane flight. If someone from Vancouver can get to Toronto in about three hours, just imagine how long it would take to get from Vancouver to Calgary. Ideally, someone could work in Calgary, take the hyperloop to work, and come home to Vancouver in time for dinner.
Hyperloops are also predicted to be cheaper to build than high speed rail, which means that Canada could have a fast transportation service that lessens our reliance on planes and connects our country in a way we have never connected before. It doesn’t solve the problems that Canada still has, like the lines possibly being far away from the city centres, but outside of that the hyperloop shows great potential.
Some may look at spending on such an extravagant line as foolish, and that to build a line that connects our country would cost tens of billions of dollars, but with everything that high speed rail/hyperloop brings it seems more than worth it.
Even if hyperloop technology does not come to fruition, we should still have a plan to build a high-speed rail line somewhere in Canada. We need investment in this kind of technology to unite the country, get us taking transportation other than cars and planes, and to help provide much needed jobs after this long pandemic. The cost of building it may be high, but the cost of not building may very well be higher.