Is the Okanagan ripe for a commuter train?

With funding from federal, provincial and local governments, the Okanagan project could be running by 2030, says city councillor

UBCO professor and Kelowna city Coun. Gord Lovegrove was at Peachland council this week touting his idea for an Okanagan train system. | Castanet/contributed

A light-rail commuter train travelling from Osoyoos to Kamloops could use the existing Highway 97 right of way, Peachland council heard on Tuesday.

UBC Okanagan engineering professor and Kelowna city councillor Gord Lovegrove told Peachland council an economic analysis of the proposed Okanagan “hydrail” project is done, getting peer-reviewed and will be made public soon.

“It’s technically economically feasible," he said.

The train would be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. It’s a project Lovegrove and a team of engineering student at UBCOare now working on. They are also working on developing hydrogen fuel cells that would power a freight railway in the B.C. Lower Mainland.

With funding from federal, provincial and local governments, the Okanagan project could be running by 2030, Lovegrovesaid.

“It actually eliminates, or precludes or delays the need for a second crossing because it could run in the HOV lanes on Highway 97 in Kelowna or over the bridge. It could run where there is adequate right of way in the median or on the sides of the road at higher speeds. It doesn’t require road widening.”

"It’s cheaper than widening highways. It’s using made-in-B.C. technology.”

Coun. Keith Thom wondered if the train would pose any fire risk.

“There is always a fire risk no matter what you’re dealing with, whether it’s a car, a truck, a bus or a steel wheel on steel rail in hot weather, so you have to take precautions,” answered Lovegrove.

Coun. Alena Glasman asked if the train might affect wildlife.

“They will be able to stop as quickly as any other vehicle on the road right now,” answered Lovegrove.

Responding to other questions, Lovegrove said the train would be quiet and would be operated by people, and not automatically.

Why was he bringing this to Peachland council now?

“The best advice I was given … the best way is to start talking. Just start the discussion,” Lovegrove said.