Rail Renaissance

Richard has another really good piece in today’s Florida Times-UnionThis time it’s about the nation’s freight rail carriers and their “rail renaissance” — which in this case means their increasing profitability.

DSC04102One of the great things about this story is that it goes behind the upward trend in railroad profits, and stock prices, to try to figure out what forces are at play that produced the “rail renaissance.”  It turns out that there are a lot of them:  industry consolidation that has dramatically reduced the number of carriers over the past 70 years and thereby reduced rate competition, investments by the railroads that allow them to carry ever more freight, decreasing number of employees, with the decline in associated costs, and an infrastructure advantage over the nation’s highway system.

Now that I think of it, I’ve had several recent experiences driving through rural areas only to be stopped by a train that was stacked high with containers and seemed to go on forever.  For the railroads, those incredibly long container trains are engines of prosperity.

It makes you wonder:  if rail carriers have made a comeback, is there any chance that the passenger rail industry might similarly have its own “rail renaissance”?

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