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This idea is directed at the USA but might have application elsewhere.
I am proposing an idea to our government to promote the creation of a nationwide, privately run, rail shipping system that could significantly affect the energy cost and number of interstate trucks. The idea is a cross between the Interstate highways and Federal Express. The infrastructure would be developed and paid for by both the federal and local governments just as the Highways were. Initially it would only connect major transport hubs. Over time it would be extended to cover the same sites our current interstate system covers, possibly by using land contiguous with the highways. A major rail yard being set up outside each transport hub. The trains would only carry truck trailers that would be picked up at the rail yard and delivered to their final destination.
Where the Fed Ex idea comes in would be in the charter under which the schedules were run. Trains would leave on-time, whether fully loaded or not. Delivery at the rail yard would be guaranteed by the private firm running the system. This private firm would gain the concession to run the service by bid from the Federal government. They would be held to their schedules, rates and penalties by the terms of their contract and federal law, the ultimate penalty being loss of the concession and a fine. Payment for the concession would be used for repayment of the construction costs. Private trucking firms would supply the delivery to final destination and from source to the rail yard.
I suggest this idea for two reasons, although it may have several others. After talking with some friends who were truckers but have left the business, I found they were driven out by rising fuel costs and flat charge rates. The rates set by the major trucking firms make it impossible for small contractors to compete. This is the way capitalism works and eventually, when the competition is reduced, rates will rise again. This proposal would reduce the amount of fuel used for long distance transportation while overcoming the chief objection to rail transport, untimely delivery. Secondarily, it would decrease the number of heavy trucks on the interstates which would increase the safety and structural life of those roadways. I would appreciate your thoughts both on the feasibility of the idea and a method of presentation that might gain some considered thought by our government.