This story was in the Dispatch yesterday, and while more of a national story, it will definitely have a local impact on Columbus as well. First come the freight trains. Next come the passenger trains?
Freight by rail enjoys comeback
Track being laid for first time in 80 years as fuel costs hurt truckers
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
BY FRANK AHRENS
THE WASHINGTON POST
RADFORD, Va. — When Bob Billingsley hired on with Norfolk Southern railway 31 years ago, he was a rookie on work crews that were closing unused lines as the nation’s economy turned its back on the railroads.
Now, he’s in charge of raising the roof of a Norfolk Southern tunnel in southwestern Virginia to clear headroom for the double-stacked container cars that have become the symbol of the industry’s surge, thanks to a confluence of powerful global factors.
“For years, we were looking for ways to cut costs to increase profits,” said Billingsley, as a train rumbled by. “Now, we’re building business to increase profits.”
The freight railway industry is enjoying its biggest building boom in nearly a century, a turnaround as abrupt as it is ambitious. It is largely fueled by growing global trade and rising fuel costs for 18-wheelers. In 2002, the major railroads laid off 4,700 workers; in 2006, they hired more than 5,000. Profit in the industry has doubled since 2003, and stock prices have soared. The value of the largest railroad, Union Pacific, has tripled since 2001.