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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Rail rates mostly plummet over three-year period, GAO study says


General Accounting Office (GAO) July 1 released a report finding that railroad rates generally decreased for most commodities between 1997 and 2000.

"Railroad Regulation: Changes In Freight Railroad Rates From 1997 through 2000" was prepared by GAO per the request of U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"This study, like its 1999 predecessor, is the only such analysis to reflect total access to all U.S. freight rates, including those that are governed by confidential contracts," said Young, according to a prepared statement.

The study found that railroad rates for some commodity and distance categories remained the same or increased, but most rates declined, which reflects the industry's continued post-Staggers Act success, said Young.

"Reliable rail service at a reasonable cost can be a make-or-break factor for many of our basic industries," he said. "We have seen a vivid example of this dependence in the last few days, as continued operations by plants where the only freight rail access is the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor have hung in the balance in the current Amtrak financial crisis."

Young believes the study will play a role in Surface Transportation Board's reauthorization and any proposed Staggers Act changes.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/2/2002