A former counsel of the chief rail U.S rail regulator wonders about its future mission

By John Kingston, Freight Waves; January 14, 2019

With precision railroading looming as the dominant operating strategy in the North American rail sector, and with coal markets facing enormous competition from natural gas and renewables, Raymond Atkins asked a question: what’s the proper role of the federal government in regulating railroads?

Atkins was on a panel at the annual meeting in Washington of the Transportation Safety Board that looked at the role of the federal government in regulating the nation’s rails. While much of the discussion got deep in the weeds on the elements of how the U.S. Surface Transportation Board figures out costs –the Uniform Rail Costing System (URCS) and the Stand-Alone Cost guidelines –came up frequently, Atkins, a lawyer with the firm of Sidley Austin and a former STB general counsel, asked a more existential question.

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