UBC Okanagan engineering profession Dr. Gordon Lovegrove makes a pitch for a passenger tram-train service from the U.S. border to Kamloops at Vernon council Monday. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Okanagan professor pitches passenger rail

UBC Okanagan engineering prof envisions tram train from Okanagan to Kamloops

Ski Train? Maybe Wine Train? It just won’t be a Sky Train.

UBC Okanagan engineering professor Dr. Gord Lovegrove is visiting Okanagan communities pitching the possibility of a passenger rail service within communities and connecting municipalities from Kamloops through to the U.S. border at Oroville, Wash.

Lovegrove made his presentation to Vernon council Monday.

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“This is sustaining the quality of life. It’s a quality of life discussion,” said Lovegrove, who drew a near-capacity crowd to council chambers to hear his presentation.

What Lovegrove envisions is something that’s happening in Germany. A passenger rail train that uses hydrogen fuel cells/battery rail power, called Hydrail, where the hydrogen cells charge batteries and keep them charged.

There are zero barriers.

The rails are embedded in pavement. The tram-style train can go up hills, around curves. Speeds within cities would be city speed limits. Lovegrove said the train could go 1,000 to 2,000 kilometres before recharging, depending on the frequency of stops being made.

There are no overhead wires, no third rail needed.

“It’s all on-board technology. Zero emission,” said Lovegrove. “It emits water, heat and electricity.”

The cost of such a project was once estimated at $10 million per kilometre. New technology, said Lovegrove, reduces that to $5 million per km with savings and health benefits passed on to the communities. Lovegrove intimated a tripartite partnership between local, provincial and federal governments would help pay for the project.

“The province has said if the municipalities come to us and ask for this, we’ll respond,” he said.

As for location, Lovegrove said the rail could go alongside, in the middle of or in place of highways.

“Where the route goes should be the last topic of discussion. What should be talked about now is do you like the idea?” said Lovegrove, which drew a loud, raucous applause from the audience.

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Coun. Brian Quiring loved the idea.

“It’s all about low impact but running down the highway, like a raised monorail kind of concept, would be the right idea,” he said.

Mayor Victor Cumming said current infrastructure in place in the city would allow for a test of the idea.

“It could run from Kal Tire headquarters (Kal Lake Road) to the Village Green Centre on the existing tracks,” said Cumming. “To run at city speeds, it could go to the Polson Mall, stop downtown and out to Village Green Centre. We also have wider roads that would lend themselves well to such an idea.”

Cumming also pondered about an east-west rail path from Highway 6 and 15th Street to Okanagan Landing.

Lovegrove is pitching the proposal, which he sees being feasible by 2040 or even earlier, to Okanagan communities.

“I’m going up and down the valley building a support coalition before moving on to the next level of government,” he said.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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