Open-access railroading: Needed more right now than ever before!

Open-access railroading is not a figment of someone’s wild imagination: It really does exist.

In fact, according to Robinson Foster in a Jan. 16, 2023 column at, he says the concept has been successfully applied in Europe for nearly three decades.

So, what is “open-access railroading”?

“Open-access railroading” is a type of operational arrangement whereby a disassociated, independent interest (not connected with a specific railroad endeavor or enterprise) is given access to the latter’s physical plant (property) on which the former can run its own trains using its own trained and certified personnel or ones provided by the independent, like would be the case of one secured under contract. It would be analogous to disinterested motor-vehicle operators being allowed access to roadways that they would otherwise be prohibited from driving on. One “open-access” situation in the United States that I can think of off the top of my head is one where an excursion-train operator, for example, is allowed use of a private railroad’s trackage or a portion thereof to operate an excursion train on, one that can transport paying passengers, for instance. Though not considered true open access in the traditional sense, I believe you get the idea.

Steam-locomotive-powered excursion train in U.S.

Foster says, “It’s not about population density. It’s about the competitive cost per mile in head[-]to[-]head competition between the rail mode and the highway and air modes for both travel and shipping.”

He then goes on to state: “Because these greedy regional monopoly railroads pay significant dividends, instead of investing in their competitiveness, Americans cannot travel or ship border to border in 10 hours, or coast to coast in 30 hours at less cost than by highway or airline.”

A most unfortunate situation.

So, in what way(s) would having open access change things? Foster lays out a host of benefits. Among these are:

• Travel- and shipping-cost reductions

• Highway fatality- and injury-rate reductions

• Improved or increased economic-development-leveraging opportunities (as I understand it)

• Reduced carbon (fossil) fuel dependency

• Slowing the advance of global warming

(A 10-minute video: “Climate Emergency: Trains-An Effective Response” can be accessed to learn more, and is available at the following address:

Foster, moreover, contends “… in markets under 500 miles conventional railroads can operate at as much as 125 mph and 80 mph average speeds to compete head-to-head with the highway and air modes.” Freight- and passenger-train underutilization domestically, compounded by a “complete lack of airline and highway competitive passenger rail and freight service,” Foster emphasizes, “is a national disgrace.”

Foster’s culminating message? “Open Access on the railroads now America.”

Quoted source material used here with permission, courtesy of:

Above and corresponding, connected home-page-featured images: Douglas W. Jones via Wikimedia Commons.

– Alan Kandel

Copyrighted material.