UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The Economic Feasibility of (Re-)Introducing Tram-Trains in Canada: Okanagan Valley Electric Regional Passenger Rail Boray, Tye; Hegazi, Mohamed; Busche, Holger; Lovegrove, G. R.


Population and tourism growth has increased congestion, collisions, climate harming emissions, and transport inequities in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. Surveys indicate a willingness among residents to switch from cars to public transit featuring better service levels and connections. We conducted an analysis on the economic feasibility of an Okanagan Valley Electric Regional Passenger Rail (OVER PR) powered by zero-emission (ZE) Fuel Cell/Battery Hybrid Rail (Hydrail) technology along a 342-km route between Osoyoos, B.C., at the US Border and Kamloops, B.C., the Canadian VIA rail hub. Hydrail passenger light-rail has operated successfully since 2018 in Germany and was demonstrated in Quebec, Canada, in 2023. Technical analyses have confirmed the feasibility in B.C. on steep Highway (Hwy) 97 grades and mountainous weather, with mode shift forecasts in the range of 30%. OVER PR economic analyses were also favorable, with net present value (NPV) = CAD 40 billion (CDN, base year 2023), benefit–cost ratio (BCR) = 9:1, and Return on Investments (IRR) = 33% over 30 years. Subject to additional stakeholder consultations and final design reviews, these results were tested against risks using Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS) and Reference-Class Forecasting (RCF), including worst-case risks such as 70% cost over-runs. OVER PR promises an economic transition to clean energy, sustainable transportation, and more livable communities, benefiting all Valley communities through greater transportation equity.

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