Freight, passenger roads stress compromise on shared track

The delicate working balance between a track owner-host railroad and user railroad teeters on four “C” words: communication, cooperation, coordination and compromise. In order for freight roads to meet shippers’ transit-time needs and passenger roads to achieve their on-time performance goals, those four Cs come into play essentially 24/7 on shared track.

There’s one other C word that’s essential, too: clockwork. It takes that level of precision to keep all trains moving efficiently on shared lines each day in a busy metropolitan area.

But there isn’t always that level of commitment and consideration between a host and user. For example, a Class I might have a premium train that’s behind schedule or a maintenance issue on a shared track that triggers a slow speed order, so a passenger railroad’s needs could take a back seat.

Therefore, finding common ground through some give and take is vital for hosts and users. And it’s a task they both continue trying to get better at, especially given the money at stake for hosts in usage fees and infrastructure costs, and the working relationships at stake for both parties as operational partners.

I delved into the shared track dynamic in this cover story for our May issue. My goal was to present points of view from both Class Is and passenger railroads on the challenges of being either the host or user. What’s your viewpoint on shared track issues? Please comment below.

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