Term Paper: Railroad Policy Analysis the National

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[. . .] At that time, many in the trucking industry invested heavily in piggyback's promise, including less-than-truckload haulers, truckload carriers like J.B. Hunt Transport and Schneider National, and package express giant United Parcel Service. Rail inter-modal transport was more cost effective for long-haul traffic. It also seemed to be a viable answer to the dwindling supply of truck drivers willing to spend weeks at a time away from home making cross-country trips.

The enthusiasm drained away, however, during the widespread rail service failures in the wake of the mergers of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, and the split up of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Rail inter-modal loads began to edge back up in 1999 and 2000, according to the most recent figures released by the Inter-modal Association of North America, but the piggyback trailer may be headed the way of the dinosaur. IANA reported that some LTL carriers cut back their use of inter-modal while others shifted from 28-foot trailers to 28-foot containers. Several truckload carriers withdrew from inter-modal entirely, and those that persist in the market are more likely to use containers as well. Third quarter data showed that containers now make up 74% of the inter-modal mix. (Sparkman, 2001)

Declining revenues, aging equipment, increased competition, lack of cooperative ventures within the transportation industry which could bring new financial blood flowing into the heart and artery system of a struggling industry are all factors which paint the picture of an industry which is need of heart surgery, not just a cosmetic facelift, or the hiring of a personal trainer. The demands of the world, and what organizations expect of businesses will no longer tolerate train schedules which are hours late, or eliminated entirely due to any of an assortment of unsolved transportation issues, or accident. The rail industry needs as a whole to address the change in the culture as well as the change in the competitive transportation industry if it is to remain solvent, and once again become a dominant and reliable industry.

A final consideration for the rail industry is the reacquisition of the travel passenger. When a business is loosing market share to other competitors for its major product line, according to H. Ansoff, looking to develop new products is key to building a prosperous future. The Ansoff matrix which is discusses further in the literature review identifies some of the alternative directions in which business development can take place. The matrix gives the industry's management tools by which to ask important questions regarding business operation. The Matrix helps the company develop marketing strategies for existing products, or determine the new markets, or new products which it can effectively bring to market. (Dibbs, and Simkin, 1997)

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Opportunities through Technological Advancements

Discussions of Light rail, high speed trains have surfaced in literature throughout the late 20th century. However, when compared to the successful light rail ventures in Europe, the significant difference is that the light rail systems in Europe and Japan and those attempted in the U.S. were that the former were designed as light rail systems. In the U.S., when the additional costs and bed upgrades were added into the financial projections, the financial feasibility of light rail systems was not workable. Another reason for the diminished priority on light rail systems was that the equipment was inadequate and start-up costs more than most communities wanted to pay. Today, however, the technology has caught up to the demand, and new technologies are making many such light rail projects possible. Three developments in rail equipment facilitate a leap forward for light-rail local service and high-speed intercity trains:

New materials that make lighter-weight bodies. This advance clearly enhances the speed that a given engine and a given amount of fuel can produce.

Improved transmission of engine power to the wheels, providing economy and faster acceleration for trains. In some cases, a diesel engine using this new transmission has a pickup speed almost equal to electric-powered trains, a situation heretofore unheard of.

Some cities are opting to start new lines for service to suburbs with self-propelled light-rail diesel trains, putting off electrification until the system proves its popularity. One example is the RegioSprinter, self-propelled rather than electrically powered train. A trial system with this train avoids the high cost of electrification, and the electrical power can be added some years later with little inconvenience

Improved wheels capable of sophisticated "conversations" with the rails to permit greater speed with safety and passenger comfort. Rail experts often have said that "the danger of jumping the rails is virtually nil, and we are just concerned with making passengers feel secure when going around curves." (Cerami, 1998) They exude confidence on the subject when talking about subtle new developments in "wheel-rail interface" that not only boost comfort but add even greater fuel efficiency.

Already in use in Germany, the RegioSprinter trains are designed with a "low-floor" streetcar design into which passengers can step quickly and easily. Its two cars can carry up to 225 passengers -- all operated by a crew of one. Of the many attractive attributes, this example of high tech engineering has the ability to operate both on old freight rail tracks and light-rail tracks, so it can move between country and city.

Another innovation in the rail transport industry is a railway vehicle which will allow travelers to have the option of levitating to their destinations, if the federal government gets the newly developed 'maglev' rail system. The idea of transporting people by levitating them on a cushion of air at extreme speed has been considered for years. But in Emsler, Germany, traveling by levitation is a reality.

It's called magnetic levitation, or "maglev" and it involves magnetic forces that lift, propel and guide a passenger-car vehicle over a guideway with no physical contact while in motion. It is run on electrical power and reaches speeds exceeding 300 mph -- almost twice the speed of conventional high-speed rail service, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). "The only thing hindering speed is passenger comfort," says Kevin Coates of Transrapid-USA, the Germany-based company that developed the ultra quiet system currently in use at the German test site. (Ray, 2001) He emphasizes that the maglev concept is not just a vehicle but a system in which the movement of the car is dependent on the electronics within the guideway. The vehicle wraps around a track built on an elevated guideway. The distance between the top of the guideway and the underside of the passenger car during levitation is 6 inches. Support magnets pull the vehicle to the guideway from below and guidance magnets keep it laterally on track, according to Transrapid-USA.

Opportunities through Equipment Upgrades

Safety: Train safety is a source of major active reengineering for the rail industry. The cost savings for the industry would be significant by eliminating the causes of routine accidents during train operations. Part of the problem is that a typical freight train moving at 50 MPH takes at least a mile to bring to a stop. So the safety margin for train travel must be built into a system which extends beyond the conductor's vision. According to Operation Life Saver:

Most collisions with trains occur when the train is traveling under 30 MPH.

Most collisions with vehicle occur within 25 miles of the vehicle driver's home.

Nearly 50% of the collisions occur at crossings which automated crossing warning devices.

Appx. every 2 hours a train collision occurs between a train and vehicle, or train and pedestrian. (Operation LifeSaver, 2002)

In response, the Federal Transit Administration has become an active partner with nationwide safety improvement efforts. The FTA is pursuing an integrated approach to initiate demonstrations of new technology, and deploy innovations in crossing technologies and strategies which will improve the safety of rail crossings for trains, motorists and pedestrians. (fta.dot.gov, online) Their programs include:

Monitoring the health of grade crossings.

Creating a "constant warning time" indicator system at high speed rail crossings and electrified rail operations.

Standard traffic signals at all highways - rail transport intercessions.

Improving line of sight distances at highway - rail crossings.

Evaluation power swing gate which could be installed at high speed rail crossings to increase pedestrian safety.

Automation: Fully automated trains are a concept which science fiction horror movie has been designed around. The idea of an automated train crossing the country at high speeds, under the control of new technology is a situation which the American public would never approve. However, the ability to automate train activity within the train yard is an opportunity for significant savings, in labor and overall efficiency.

Converting rail operation over to automated services will eliminate jobs. While this is troublesome to those who call the rail industry their home, the cost savings from the reductions in the labor force are necessary. By converting to remote controlled locomotives in the switching yard, Union Pacific rail road will eliminate over 600 jobs across… [END OF PREVIEW]

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