There are 7 Class I railroads in the US: BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Grand Trunk Corporation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern Combined Railroad Subsidiaries, Soo Line Corporation, and Union Pacific Railroad.
Unlike trucks, barges, and airlines in the U.S., freight railroads do not strain the public purse. Privately owned railroads have spent $525 billion since 1980 building, maintaining and growing their 140,000-mile rail network. That amount equals 40 cents of every revenue dollar. Even during the economic downturn, America’s freight railroads spent approximately $20 billion annually to build and maintain the most efficient rail system in the world. In 2013, that investment is expected to increase to an estimated $24.5 billion, helping to keep America competitive.
Average inflation-adjusted rail rates (as measured by revenue per ton-mile) are down 44 percent through 2012. That means the average rail shipper can move nearly twice as much freight for the same price it paid 30 years ago — saving consumers billions of dollars in shipping costs each year.
Railroads are much safer. From 1980-2012, the train accident rate was reduced by 80 percent and the employee injury and illness rate fell by 85 percent. 2012 was the safest year ever for railroads, breaking the safety records set in 2011.
Railroads are stronger financially. Return on investment, which had been falling for decades, rose to 4.4 percent in the 1980s, 7.0 percent in the 1990s, and 8.5 percent from 2000 to 2011. That’s important, because railroad earnings today lead to rail investments in new locomotives, tracks, bridges, and more so taxpayers don’t have to.