It's time for a North American railroad summit to address transportation growth, CP's Ritchie says (3/25/2004)


The North American transportation system isn't keeping pace with economic growth and railroads aren't improving their networks fast enough. Those concerns could be addressed by a North American summit between U.S., Canadian and Mexican rail industry representatives and federal government officials, who can discuss transportation and NAFTA trade growth challenges, said Canadian Pacific Railway President and Chief Executive Officer Rob Ritchie during a speech in Chicago March 23.

"We need to get North America's railroads onto the agenda of every state, provincial and federal government in the NAFTA zone, so that when they plan expenditures for transportation, they come to us for rail-based solutions," he said. "[Our] infrastructure is already stretched. On too many railroads, at too many places, we have to make do with terminals that are too small for today's trains, and long stretches of congested single track with inadequate capacity."

Although U.S. railroads alone invested $58 billion between 1993 and 2002 on equipment and infrastructure, that type of investment level is only allowing roads to slowly improve networks.

"Incremental improvement is just not going to cut it anymore," said Ritchie. "Rail is not growing fast enough to fulfill the demands that society and the industry will place on us in the year 2020."

However, railroads' investment pace is hamstrung by regulatory and taxation policies that "distort the market and siphon money away from the railroads that we could better reinvest to improve infrastructure and service," he said.

A North American summit could address such issues as the level of freight and passenger traffic expected by 2020, the capacity railroads expect to have in place within 16 years, anticipated bottlenecks and their cost to the three countries' economies, and least-cost solutions that rely on freight transportation modes' strengths.

"This is a North America-wide issue and it deserves a forum of this stature and magnitude," said Ritchie.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News