As Featured in Railway Age, December 2014, Page 44
Written by Michael Sussman, OnTrackNorthAmerica President and Founder
North America has yet to achieve the full extent of railroads’ potential contribution to the economy, environment, and land use. In spite of the good work of railroad developers, investors and staff, as well as significant public sector support, railroads remain underutilized for moving goods and people.
Our freight rail system is already so robust that it is easy to miss the possibility of a continental surge in capacity and reach. But railroads are energy-, capital-, and space-efficient, and these benefits are key to our future. It is time to get working on the rail system that a growing, modern society ultimately needs to be successful and sustainable.
Mr. Buffett, congratulations on your purchase of the BNSF Railway. It is a welcome investment in North America’s transportation system. It also provides a timely opening to address a systemic, long-standing problem—the incongruence between the inherent value of railroads to any well-functioning modern society and the shortfall in our investment of capital, energy, and land for rail freight and passenger transportation.
Only by understanding this shortcoming and seizing the opportunity to transform its causes can we bring North America out of its economic malaise and environmental jeopardy.
If we act wisely, your acquisition will become a watershed moment. However, to make the most of it, decision-making must evolve beyond moving money simply to where the investor receives the highest return on investment, and adopting a new principle that puts capital into industries and regions in a way that maximizes the benefit of those resources to those systems. From that shared benefit, investors receive their return.