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A strong and robust freight-rail network is needed to meet the nation’s transforming business challenges head on, said Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger during a presentation this morning at Progressive Railroading’s RailTrends conference in New York City.Factors including the rail industry’s shift from comparatively light to heavy traffic in a short period of time — something even many shippers didn’t forecast — along with demand to transport more commodities has resulted in the industry working hard to address immediate shipping demands while developing longer-term network adjustments, he said."America's railroads are moving more traffic since the recession. Business production and consumer demand are increasing, and rail is playing a bigger part in getting American goods to market," said Hamberger, according to a press release issued by the AAR. "Railroads cannot simply pick up track and move it from one location to another due to shifting shipping patterns. It takes time and careful network planning."To accommodate customers' needs, railroads need to be flexible, efficient and responsive, which includes spending about $1 billion every two weeks on operational enhancements and hiring thousands more people, he said.Although the U.S. rail industry is well positioned to drive the nation’s economy, the potential of any new government regulations would undercut industry efforts to manage the rail network, said Hamberger."We need to ease regulatory roadblocks that curtail the industry’s ability to address service pressures," he said. "New restrictive regulation would be imposed on the nation’s railroads at exactly the wrong time, when investments in capacity, new equipment and new hires are needed."Held at the W New York Hotel today and tomorrow, RailTrends will feature presentations on a range of topics, including Norfolk Southern Railway’s operational goals, the Australian rail market, on-time rail availability for UPS, CN's commitment to safety, recent developments at BNSF Railway Co., CSX Corp. and Union Pacific Railroad, rail-car builds and deliveries, and the evolving crude-by-rail market. Hamberger was part of a panel that addressed key rail stakeholder issues. The other panelists were National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association President Chuck Baker, Intermodal Association of North America President and CEO Joni Casey and Railway Supply Institute President Tom Simpson.
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