Conrail Inc. plans to change its commercial ties with 17 small railroads to make the relationship resemble the connections between major airlines and commuter carriers.
Company officials, dubbing the plan ''Conrail Express,'' said the changes in marketing and accounting procedures will allow the product to be marketed as a through service with Conrail's brand name attached to it.The initial small railroads that signed up for the plan, representing barely 10 percent of Conrail's total small railroad connections, are located in eight states.
Major airlines have hundreds of similar relationships with commuter carriers that use the larger companies' ticketing and marketing procedures but operate planes themselves.
John Sammon, senior vice president, said the move also will allow the participating smaller railroads to take advantage of Conrail's buying power for supplies such as rail, ties and fuel.
The new relationship, which Conrail hopes to establish with future short-line sales tied to its long-term downsizing plan, calls for small railroads to accept a set per-car allowance for cars interchanged with the larger railroad.
Mr. Sammon said Conrail hopes to make the short-line sale process more of an ongoing commercial relationship, instead of viewing the process as a real estate sale.
In line with that approach, Conrail's new approach to payments it will make to smaller railroads will be established at the beginning of the process instead of becoming a matter for extensive discussions.
Typically, small railroad operators and major carriers battle over the per-car allowance, with the individual shipment payments rising or falling in relation to the overall sale price for the property.