Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Chris Nash
Chapter 17: Rail
Fifty years ago the usual pattern of provision of rail services was to have a single state-owned company responsible for infrastructure, passenger and freight services. Often this was run essentially as a government department. The major exception to this rule was North America, where the US still had a number of privately owned vertically integrated rail companies while Canada had one. In both these cases, there remained strict regulation. The first major change to this situation was the formation of Amtrak in 1971 as a government-owned passenger operator running over the tracks of the freight companies in the US (Winston, 2006). Passenger services had been becoming steadily more unprofitable in the US for many years, and this measure relieved the private railways of the financial burden of operating them. Even more dramatic than this in its impact was the Staggers Act of 1980, which largely removed controls on freight rates and on abandonment of unprofitable routes in the US. Similar developments followed in Canada, and the Canadian government-owned freight railway, Canadian National, was privatised.
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