The proposals for high-speed rail in the United States include running most high-speed trains on tracks owned by freight train companies. These companies are not thrilled about this arrangement:
But Norfolk Southern Corp., Union Pacific Corp. and other railroad companies are balking at sharing their tracks or rights-of-way with trains that would run between 90 and 200-plus miles an hour. They argue that mixing high-speed passenger trains with slower freight trains would create safety risks, prevent future expansion and cause congestion.
Cargo would be pushed to their competitors—trucking firms—the railroads argue, just as freight loads are picking up after the recession. Weekly average carloads in August were the highest since November 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s main trade group.
My first two thoughts:
1. Is this safety claim legitimate or just a smoke-screen? A lot of arguments about “what the public needs” are often couched in terms of safety to make the argument more appealing.
2. It sounds like the freight companies are protecting their business interests. How does high-speed passenger rail help them? Since they control the necessary infrastructure (the railroad tracks), they have some leverage at this point. Perhaps the two best weapons the federal government has to fight back: public pressure (if the freight companies are seen to be holding this up and this is what the public and/or lots of politicians want, then they will look bad) or perhaps financial incentives (tax breaks?).