Conrail's 5-Year Plan for Abandoning or Discontinuing Service Over Its Rail Lines

Gao ID: CED-80-51 January 15, 1980

The Consolidated Rail Corporation's (Conrail) plans to abandon or discontinue service on certain rail lines were addressed. Conrail refers to these plans as plant rationalization, which includes abandonment as well as other options such as transferring traffic to other rail carriers or sustaining service with Federal, State, or local support. Under Conrail's 5-year business plan, it proposed to reduce its rail system by 1,940 route miles with the assumption that complete railroad deregulation would begin and that Government investment in Conrail would be limited to $3.3 billion. The 5-year plan also contained two contingency plans. The first, assuming that there would be no regulatory reform and no change in Federal funding, proposed a reduction of 2,200 route miles. The second plan, projecting no change in the regulatory environment and the availability of additional Federal funding, would call for the abandonment of 1,730 miles. Questions have been asked concerning how Conrail determined which lines would be abandoned, how the plans compare with each other and with U.S. Railway Association (USRA) studies, and what would happen to the traffic on lines planned for abandonment.

In order for Conrail to determine which route miles were not profitable under the current plan and the first contingency plan, lines were screened by measuring the carloads moving over individual line segments. The second contingency plan originated from a Conrail light-density line study. The estimated route mile reductions in the Conrail plans do not vary significantly, but USRA possible reductions were substantially higher than Conrail's. Neither Conrail's business plans nor the USRA plant rationalization studies are sufficiently detailed to indicate what might actually be done if plant rationalization was adopted as a strategy for improving service and operations. However, the studies did offer several traffic and service alternatives on lines that are subject to rationalization. The studies were mainly intended to indicate how much of Conrail's system is marginal under deregulation assumptions, but Conrail is not actively pursuing the detailed studies needed to actually abandon any lines. Since proposed abandonments are presently decided upon according to prescribed rules and regulations, it would be time consuming and costly for Conrail to try to abandon route mileage as extensive as estimated in any of its plans.

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