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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

June 2007

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Context by Pat Foran (June 2007)


The original premise for this month’s cover story was “The Quest for Constructive Dialogue.” The aim? Get a handle on the extent to which railroads, shippers, investors and other transport stakeholders are communicating and/or collaborating as the transportation industry inches toward finding ways to create and finance capacity.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the hoped-for forum. A number of key stakeholders declined to comment on the status, quality or tenor of today’s dialogue. A common response (the words are paraphrased but the tone isn’t): “Interesting topic, but I’ll pass — there’s no percentage in it, given the rhetoric, uncertainty and corresponding anxiety that’s flying around out there. But what are other people saying?”

Publicly, not much — a number of interviews netted similar responses. Several stakeholders suggested checking out recently issued public-hearing testimony, position papers or press releases. There’s been some serious shouting going on about rail rates (shippers say they’re too high, some investors say they’re too low). And railroads are seeking support for investment tax credit legislation with less-than-certain support from other stakeholders. The result: Uncertainty rules during this early phase of “The Railroad Renaissance,” and the pain of evolution — of an industry experiencing a rebirth, with implications and ramifications for every link in the transport chain — is something all stakeholders simply must work (and, I believe, talk) their way through (see “Renaissance Angst”).

Of course, the presumption that railroads, shippers, investors, rail labor, lawmakers, regulators et. al need to communicate better in order to meet the capacity challenge head on is debatable. One could argue they’ve done an OK job on their own meeting short-term individual goals, capacity-related or otherwise. But if the aim is more capacity over the longer haul, there needs to be more common ground than we’ve seen covered to date. The lack of anything remotely approaching stakeholder unity — in principle, if not voice — has to send a disconcerting message to Congress and other policy-shapers. How urgent can this capacity thing be if key stakeholders can barely talk to each other?

In the meantime, we’ll continue to chronicle the dialogue and/or lack thereof. And we’ll keep trying to go with the evolutionary flow. As ever, we’re looking for examples of stakeholders who are finding ways to keep the constructive dialogue going. Know of any? Let me know (pat.foran@tradepress.com; 414-228-7701 x 522).

The League of Railway Industry Women seeks ‘Outstanding’ nominees
The League of Railway Industry Women (LRIW) is seeking nominations for its 2007 “Outstanding Woman of the Year” award. Any woman who works in the North American rail industry is eligible to receive the award, which is co-sponsored by Progressive Railroading.

What is LRIW looking for, in terms of nomination information? The person’s name, railroad affiliation, address and phone number; your name (as nominator), address and phone number; your reason(s) for nominating the individual; the nominee’s background information (including the year she began working in the rail industry, plus other rail background information of hers that you can share); and any additional rail industry affiliations.

Last year, LRIW — which strives to provide women the opportunity to achieve a broader understanding of the railroad business — presented the award to Jalene Forbis, director of the California Short Line Railroad Association, director of government affairs for the McCloud Railway, and vice president of advertising and guest services for the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train.

Applications can be downloaded via the Web and emailed to LRIW’s Connie Sumara. You also can fax your nominations to Sumara at 847-318-8045; or, if you prefer, mail them to: Connie Sumara, Vice President, Chicago Freight Car Leasing Co., One O’Hare Center, 6250 N. River Road, Suite 7000, Rosemont, IL 60018. For more information, call 847-384-4417.

The LRIW will accept nominations through Aug. 1. The winner will be recognized during the League’s 10th Annual Luncheon in Chicago Sept. 14 during Railway Supply Institute Inc.’s Annual Convention and Technical Conference of the Coordinated Mechanical Committees.


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