I think this time around all the good arguments are on the side of the shippers. Since moving to various forms of precision scheduled railroading (PSR), railroads have been passing longer delays on to customers. They don’t have the cover of good servi8ce right now, and I bet they lose on this one.
It seems clear that the major rails have leaned out their systems so much that they can’t respond to anyone’s exceptional needs. A shift to reciprocal shipping for a larger group of customers would help that out, and foster more price competition as well as simple competition for cargoes.
Rails can’t argue that they are making investments in new lines to serve more customers. What investment there is in rail infrastructure is on maintenance, and on expanding trunk and yard lines where great congestion has occurred. It’s almost impossible for a new business to get a rail spur, let alone service at a spur. Rails don’t see themselves providing this kind of service anymore, though they continue to support those who have it. Letting other rails use the rail lines via reciprocal switching would help the shippers a lot. It would induce competition where there isn’t any now.
The rails have lots of ways to react to new rules. All the schemes contemplated would allow fair compensation for the use by other lines. And I bet there will be some limitations in who can negotiate shipper reciprocal switching rights. So big rails will continue to have enough leverage to make it a business option.
Big rails need to staff up and get more rolling stock anyway. They have cut too close to the bone to provide good service today, and everyone from ag shippers to container shippers knows it. they should make the system and infrastructure work for the customers.