VRPI Director David Foster has been the founding Executive Director of RAIL Solution since 2006. RAIL Solution is an organization that promotes more efficient, environmentally responsible and effective rail transportation, with emphasis on expanding and improving freight rail systems.
David worked for 24 years at Norfolk Southern Corporation, and predecessor Norfolk & Western Railway, in executive positions in marketing, coal traffic, new business development, rates, and contracts. He has appeared as an expert witness on railroad coal transportation and economics of competition before the Interstate Commerce Commission.
He has been self-employed as a consultant in transportation and natural resources fields since 1996 and is a frequent presenter and guest lecturer in classes, training sessions and professional conferences. He holds a BA degree in economics from Bates College and an MBA in transportation from Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania.
Commentary I: Electrification
Sometimes I am asked, “Couldn’t we upgrade the nation’s rail system without electrification?” And the answer is, “Yes we could.” But there are solid reasons for making it a part of our vision for the future of mainline railroads in America. (read)
Commentary II: The Future of Railroad Intermodal Business
For those of us who believe strongly that the nation is best served by having as much freight move by rail as possible, the double-stack container business model has annoying limitations. The trains are long and slow and few endpoints are served, so the service is not nimble enough to be truly truck-competitive. Huge volumes of trucks remain on I-81 and I-40 across our region that cannot be diverted to rail with the service the railroads are offering today. (read)
Commentary III: Infrastructure
Here’s how to preserve a great concept but avoid the contentious issue of a new tax. Craft legislation that permits U.S. multinationals to repatriate their escrowed foreign profits tax-free as long as they are spent on an approved list of major infrastructure projects in the United States. Call this the private sector solution. (read)
Dave Foster and RAIL Solution have long promoted the concept of a "North American Steel Interstate," an electrified, multi-track, grade-separated high speed network of freight and passenger rail infrastructure that spans the country. This lithograph (right) is a conceptual drawing by rail artist, Craig Thorpe, of Virginia's Shenandoah Rail Corridor as a Steel Interstate.
Commentary IV: State of the Industry
Even though there is a vast truck freight opportunity out there, the Class I railroads had little incentive to go after it. A much more nimble business model would be needed, and they had all the business they could manage without designing a wholly new service category. That may now change. (read)
Commentary V: Postscript
The big issue remains the railroads’ focus on cutbacks. These will make the industry less capable of maintaining and increasing market share over time. (read)