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Mainline railway electrification : an economic feasibility model Johnston, William David

Abstract

The projected growth in demand for intercity freight transportation, growth in rail transit in urban areas, the requirements of intercity rail passenger service, and sensitivity to depletion of natural and environmental resources, particularly fuels and air quality, is spurring the evaluation of electric locomotives as an alternative to the diesel-electric. Of all the modes of transportation, only rail can be feasibly converted from petroleum fuel to hydro, coal, or nuclear-fueled electric energy. The technology of electric motive power has continued to improve from that realized in most previous North American large scale electrification projects, both as a result of general technological advance, and of specific efforts by electrified railroads in other countries. Under optimum operating conditions, an electrified, rail line would require less motive power equipment arid could achieve a higher frequency and better level of service than could one utilising diesel locomotives. Electric locomotives could permit faster train runs resulting in improved schedules, more efficient operations, and increased reliability of service due to less down and turn-around time. This study develops a comprehensive computer-based "Railway Electrification Economic Feasibility Model" that may be practically used to determine the potential return if various rail line segments across the country were to be electrified. The Model is developed in a manner that allows various line and locomotive operating parameters to be easily examined to determine the relative sensitivities of traffic mix (freight, express, and passenger) and growth projections, operating and locomotive characteristics, capital requirement and staging, fuel costs, and projected labor and capital inflation rates on the project viability. As the first stage in an electrification economic feasibility analysis, the Model may be employed, using rough traffic, capital and annual operating cost projections, to determine which line segments show sufficient potential return on electrification capital to justif more detailed engineering, marketing, and operating studies. The results of these detailed studies can then be usad in the Model to further refine the potential return on invested capital and, using the opportunity cost of capital, determine the year electrification will become economically viable. As the Model is computer based, it is relatively easy to vary some, or all, of the input parameters and so evaluate the sensitivity and risk of the various parameters on the financial viability of the project. The rail line used to test the model showed an extremely attractive return on invested capital. The electrification parameters found to have the greatest effect on the project viability were the equation of electric to diesel locomotives required, fixed facilities construction costs, electric locomotive purchase costs, and relative fuel cost escalation rates.

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