Determining Freight Train Delay Costs on Railroad Lines in North America


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Delayed freight trains inflict costs on many different stakeholders including the railroad, shippers, and the public. Quantifying the cost of train delay experienced by each group of stakeholders is necessary to understand the impact of a track outage or other operational disturbance, or to conduct a benefit-cost analysis to justify potential line capacity improvements. The railroad delay costs vary greatly based on the train composition and operating conditions, so a single value is not sufficient. Outside of the railroad, shippers are concerned about the cost of delayed cargo and the cost of holding additional inventory due to uncertainty in delivery times. The public may be concerned with environmental effects of increased idling as well as delay to roadway traffic at level crossings. This paper details the cost components applicable to each of the stakeholders and a methodology to determine the delay cost under three distinct operating situations: bulk, manifest, and intermodal trains.