Forced Access Regulation Threatens Rail Renaissance

By: Marc Scribner, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Date: March 24, 2014

America’s freight railroad industry is one of the greatest success stories of economic liberalization. After decades of stifling regulation that nearly brought the railroads to ruin, Congress partially deregulated the industry.

The results have been remarkable. Freight rates have fallen, industry productivity has skyrocketed, and the industry is now able to invest more billions back into its networks every year.

The benefits of deregulation to shippers, consumers, and rail carriers are clear, but a number of commercial interests now support reregulating aspects of the industry. This pro-regulation coalition includes representatives from America’s largest agriculture, coal, and petrochemical corporations. Some Members of Congress have supported legislation that threatens to reverse many of the industry’s gains and would destabilize the current balance between public interest and healthy networks — so far with no success, but they are likely to keep trying.

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