Rail Leaders Head to White House

Rail Leaders Head to White House

U.S. rail industry leaders plan to meet next week at the White House with Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, to discuss the costs of new regulations facing the railroad industry, including the mandate for crash-avoidance systems on train networks.

James R. Young, chairman, president and CEO at Union Pacific Railroad, disclosed the scheduled White House meeting of railroad CEOs during an earnings conference call with analysts Thursday. The meeting follows President Obama's order this week for a review of new or pending regulations that may harm jobs growth.

Young and other rail executives have strongly complained about the heavy expense of developing and deploying positive train control technology, which mean outfitting locomotives with automated braking gear and tying it into trackside warning devices and other remote control systems.

A 2008 law ordered the railroads to deploy PTC by the end of 2015, across nearly the entire rail network, and major railroads are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to get it done.

Young repeated his concern that these and other potential regulatory costs could cause him to cut UP's investments in other areas of its system. He said industry officials "are looking forward to the discussion" with the administration over "the impact of regulation on our industry."

UP spokesman Thomas Lange said Young and other industry executives will make the case that “rails have continued to invest in America's infrastructure as their financial returns have improved.”

But Lange said UP officials also “want to discuss regulation that restrains business growth and reduces competitiveness. While we are committed to meeting the positive train control mandate, PTC is near the top of our agenda for discussion."

-- Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.