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A comparison of North American and European railway systems - a critique and riposte

Lookup NU author(s): Philip Mortimer, Dr Dewan Islam



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


The objective of current paper is to offer constructive criticism and expose some serious shortcomings in the paper published Clausen and Voll (2013) in the ETRR. The paper ostensibly sets out to draw comparisons between North American and European railway systems. It claims to be focused on the management and operation of carload freight and how this is organized, planned and moved but does not develop this in adequate detail. The paper fails to address many generic contextual differences and influences that govern the management and operation of carload freight in both domains. It does not present a balanced or complete set of arguments as to why one scenario is to be preferred to the other. The analysis in the paper is largely generic, limited and yet arrives at robust and trenchant conclusions preferring the North American production model without any real substantiation or justification for this position being presented. The European position is inadequately described in terms of governance, ownership and operational models and is criticised for its constraints and limitations without any real explanation as to how these could be overcome. The relatively slow evolution of the response of the US railroads to the legislation that endowed them with greater commercial and operational freedoms is not adequately covered. The position in Europe in relation to a rapid sequence of interventions and directives is also not adequately reviewed. The paper does not demonstrate the impact of recent technologies in terms of inter-modal activities despite these being significant components of rail freight volume and revenue in both domains. The paper also has very limited details on the commercial and competitive realities faced by railways in both domains including rail-on-rail, waterway and road based competition and how this is managed by the train operators. The paper makes superficial reference to the “Blocking Problem” but fail to develop what this implies and how the rail freight operators develop strategies to mitigate this.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mortimer P, Islam DMZ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Transport Research Review

Year: 2014

Volume: 6

Issue: 4

Pages: 503-510

Print publication date: 01/12/2014

Online publication date: 09/10/2014

Acceptance date: 19/09/2014

Date deposited: 13/10/2014

ISSN (print): 1867-0717

ISSN (electronic): 1866-8887

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s12544-014-0148-y


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