The objective of this study was to define the elements of a rail system capable of achieving a 1000-fold increase in freight throughput, accommodate passenger travel, be capable of a phased implementation, be affordable and have a payback to an adopting railroad of less than seven years.
This paper describes a novel New Rail System, “NRS” that achieves the stated objectives. The NRS utilizes existing rail rights-of-way and tracks. It has the capability to accommodate both freight and passenger movement. In its initial implementation it supports speeds of 85 mph. Although no invention is required, three modifications to the railroad infrastructure are required, (1) elimination of at-grade crossings, (2) electrification, and (3) transition from diesel-electric locomotive powered trains to individual electrical powered pallets to allow flexible routing and sorting in the network.
The four elements defining NRS are; (1) self-powered 70-foot pallets, (2) freight and passenger payload modules (loadable and unloadable from the pallets), (3) pallet yards, accumulators and transfer stations, and (4) a pallet control system.
An initial cost-benefits analysis shows that if BNSF implemented the NRS on its Southern Transcon route between Los Angeles and Chicago a payback of the initial $21.2 billion investment can be achieved in under four-years.