Railways in national economy

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Railways in national economy

For more than a century the railroad was the dominant from of land transportation in much of the world. It was, and remains, the one land carrier that can carry almost anything, anywhere the tracks go, and do it at a true cost lower that other types of land-air transportation.

Today, however, other modes of transportation have been developed to the point where they can do certain transportation jobs more effectively than the railroads. Pipelines can carry liquids and some solids over long distances economically. Airlines, with their great speed, can carry some types of light, valuable freight at a saving; and trucks offer speed and flexibility, especially for the shorter hauls. The private automobile, operating over modern highways, and the airplane have taken over much passenger traffic formerly handled on rails. The motorbus is an effective competitor for the sport-to medium-distance passenger business. The modern barge, operating on improved inland waterways system, can move many commodities over specific routes at very low cost.

Undeniably, these competitors of the railroad can do a better job on some types of transportation tasks. The development of these never modes, therefore, has changed the role of the railroad from that of the general- purpose carrier to that of a more specialized carrier, just as other modes are specialized.

First of all, it is especially affective large volumes of bulk commodities, such as coal, ores, chemicals, and grain, over relatively long distances. It moves large volumes of finished merchandise economically at relatively high speeds over long distances. The considerable success has resulted from the “marketing approach”, wherein railroads closely tailor their rates, services, and equipment to the particular needs of specific shippers. Typical are “unit” or “block” trains operated for shippers of buck commodities. These trains are composed of large, modern cars designed for the commodity to be carried. They operate as a unit on fast schedules between one origin and one destination, bypassing all intermediate yards and terminals en route. With faster operation and larger cars, these trains are so productive that they permit the railroads to offer greatly reduced rates.

Another way in which railroads have responded to new competition is to offer shippers many special types of freight cars designed to load particular commodities quickly and at minimum cost, such as the trilevel autorack car, the 10,000- cubic foot (280-cubic meter) boxcar, and 100-ton (91,000-kilogram) covered hopper cars and gondolas.

The railroad can effectively handle containers in large volumes between major centers, and in some countries, trucks on “piggyback” trains. An efficient railroad container or piggyback shuttle system cam be viable even over relatively short distances. The piggyback idea, which actually dates from the 19 century, combines the flexibility of truck pickup and delivery with the economy of rail movement between cities. Along with piggyback development has come increasing interest among railroads (as well as other modes of transport) in container system, by which merchandise could be loaded into large standard containers or boxes that could move via highway on a truck chassis, via rail on special container cars, in ships especially equipped to handle them, or even by air. A single shipment might use two or more modes of transport in the course of its trip. In Western Europe special TEEM (Trans-Europe Merchandise) trains operate between major points, carrying only containers. In Britain, fast container shuttle trains now operate between about two dozen main cities and ports. This Freightliner system has been highly successful and is said to be competitive with over-the-road trucking, even over relatively short distances. Canadian and Japanese railroads also have extensive container operations, mainly for import-export traffic.

The railroad is the best mode for moving large numbers of commuters between big metropolitan centers and the outlying suburban areas. Very high- speed intercity passenger services can be successful when operated with modern equipment at distances of up to about 300 miles.

In sport, the railroad under modern conditions is at its best as a high-volume, medium- and long-distance carrier of both passengers and freight. And this determines its present-day place in national economy system.

Answer the following questions:

1. What part has been played by transport in the development of national economy?

2. What advantages do other modes of transport have comparing with railways (pipelines, airplanes, trucks, ships)?

3. How have these modes of transport changed the role of the railroad?

4. What kind of transport moves large volumes of finished merchandise economically?

5. How are “ unit” or “ block” trains composed?

6. In what way have the railroads responded to new competition?

7. What new kinds of cars have been designed?

8. Why have piggyback transportation become so popular lately?

9. What advantages are provided by containerized services?

10. What place is occupied by railways in present-day national economy?

Exercise in word study:

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