The scientific community has long warned of anthropogenic climate change, and a growing majority of Americans believe the threat is real. The United States is at the tipping point, and the rail industry could be a major beneficiary.
Whether or not you agree, the buzz around climate change keeps getting louder. Businesses and industries are continually announcing efforts to “go green,” green technologies are appearing left and right, congressional representatives are proposing legislation to fight climate change, and the issue has become the centerpiece of at least one 2020 Presidential campaign. It is undeniable: The tide of progress is coming, and the rail industry can either ride the wave or get left behind.
The production of renewable energy is getting cheaper by the day, gradually eating into the market share of traditional energy sources. Coal and oil have been long-time friends of the rail industry, and will continue to be crucial commodities in the foreseeable future, but the writing is on the wall. The U.S. rail industry will need to generate new revenue streams in order to offset the oncoming shrinking demand of traditional energy sources.
The convergence of political energy and the changing economic environment has created an atmosphere ripe for change. The U.S. is ready to develop a passenger train network at the breadth and scale seen in Europe and Asia. Obviously, this would be a massive, capital-intensive undertaking that would even dwarf the efforts to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) over the past 11 years. Building the infrastructure to support this project would only be feasible if it were subsidized by the U.S. government.
If there was ever a time to advocate for an expansion of the U.S. passenger train network, it is now. Whether it is “The Green New Deal” or the illusive one trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, Washington is gearing up to make a monumental investment into shaping the future of the country. A major expansion of the U.S. passenger train network would be a boon to the industry, generate reoccurring future revenues and is a moral imperative for those who believe in anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change. The details do not need to be exact at this moment. More important, the rail industry needs to unite behind a common goal to lobby Congress in order to benefit from the coming changes.
Kevin Reilly is Co-founder and Chief Financial Officer of Global Train Services LLC (GTS), an organization dedicated to improving rail safety through developing software solutions, FRA compliance and PTC (Positive Train Control) consulting. Kevin was born into a railroad family to Eileen Reilly, former Vice President Advanced Train Control at the Alaska Railroad (ARRC). He first worked in the rail industry straight out of high school as a gandy dancer, and soon became a Track Equipment Operator for ARRC. During this time, he obtained a degree in Finance from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). After six and a half years of moving and working along the Alaskan Railbelt, Kevin settled down as an accountant for the engineering firm Barry-Wehmiller Design Group. When Eileen retired after 23 years at ARRC, Kevin and Eileen partnered to create GTS in order to use their experience to further PTC efforts nationwide.