Trackage rights

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Trackage rights (US), running rights or running powers (UK) is an agreement between railroad companies in which the owner of tracks grants another railroad company some use of them. These deals can be long- or short-term; can include the right to serve customers on the line or not; and can be exclusive or not.

Trackage rights can be temporary or long-term. Temporary rights agreements are typically made when some kind of disaster affects one railroad while a parallel railroad line is fully operational, or to allow the railroad to perform maintenance on the line. The parallel railroad will often grant temporary rights to the affected railroad until the problem is resolved. Long-term agreements can be made to allow competing railroads access to potentially profitable shippers or to act as a bridge route between otherwise disconnected sections of another railroad.

A deal in which the owner grants only the right to run trains but not to stop for passengers or freight is called overhead or incidental trackage rights.

A union station typically involves trackage rights; the company that owns the station and associated trackage is typically owned in part by the railroads that use it, which operate over it by trackage rights.

In some rights deals, the owner of the tracks runs no trains of its own. This kind of arrangement can also be done via a partial lease.

In the United States, all trackage rights agreements are filed with the Surface Transportation Board and are available as a matter of public record.

Examples include:

  • Australia ARTC. The cost of operating trains on ARTC tracks consists of a charge per train, a bit like a flag fall on a taxi; and a charge per tonne-km, a bit like a mileage charge on a taxi.
  • United Kingdom Network Rail
  • United States Amtrak in the United States rarely owns its own tracks, unless it is the only user. Amtrak has legal priority[citation needed] for its passenger trains over freight trains sharing those tracks.

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