This paper presents a feasibility study for a motional Stark effect (MSE) [F. M. Levinton , Phys. Rev. Lett. 63, 2060 (1989)] diagnostic on the TCV tokamak. A numerical simulation code has been used to identify the optimal port arrangement and geometrical layout. It predicts the expected measurement accuracy for a range of typical plasma scenarios. With the existing neutral beam injector (NBI) and a detection system based on current day technology, it should be possible to determine the safety factor with an accuracy of the order of 5%. A vertically injected beam through the plasma center would allow one to measure plasmas which are centered above the midplane, a common occurrence in connection with electron cyclotron resonance heating and electron cyclotron current drive experiments. In this case a new and ideally more powerful NBI would be required. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.