Solutionary Rail

ORGANIZATION NAME: Backbone Campaign

LOCATION: United States

SUMMARY: Solutionary Rail is a comprehensive Just Transition proposal to decarbonize transportation and energy. It will run higher speed trains on renewable energy, transporting people and nontoxic freight on the rails and off the highways use railroad rights-of-way to transmit wind and solar electrons to urban centers.

PROBLEM SPACE: Railroad companies were drawn deeply into the fossil fuel economy when the government created the public subsidized Interstate Highway system, which led to freight abandoning trains and using trucks and highways for transportation.
Today, the dependency of rail companies on bulk fossil fuel transportation has eliminated regular train schedules; trains run when deemed full. Not having regular work schedules is a systemic cause of a fatigue-plagued, unsafe work environment that endangers workers, our communities, and the environment.
The risk of endangerment has until recently been assumed acceptable for lack of an alternative. The nearly catastrophic Mosier, Oregon derailment and explosion (June 2016) fueled a growing public awareness of bomb trains. People are asking serious questions about the risks and role of the current freight rail business model.
There is an abundance of energy potential from the wind and solar farms, but there lacks a viable market for those electrons. Rural utilities seek to develop their renewable energy infrastructure but need reliable markets to justify the investment. The current lack of a viable transmission system for clean energy is another part of the systemic failure Solutionary Rail addresses.

SOLUTION: Few industries are as well positioned as railroads to lead a transition to a clean energy economy. Unlike other heavy, long-haul transportation vehicles, trains can be easily electrified, with power from sun and wind sources. Rail is the most efficient form of ground transportation, and it has an unparalleled capacity to provide clean freight and passenger mobility.
Under our proposal, tracks would be modernized to allow higher speed travel. Existing tracks can be upgraded, and freight and passenger trains can run on the same lines.
Solutionary Rail runs power transmission lines through the rail corridors. It’s currently difficult to get the rights-of-way needed to build new long-distance, high-capacity transmission lines. This means that some renewable energy, like Great Plains wind power, is stranded. Rail corridors are already in industrial use, and can easily accommodate new power infrastructure. Solutionary Rail will connect renewable-energy-rich rural areas to big metropolitan areas.
Labor has partnered with Solutionary Rail; thus trains would run more safely with mandated two-person crews and reliable schedules.
Solutionary Rail uses the trimtab principle, making a relatively easy modification of our rail system that will have significant impact on many integrated aspects of our economy and the future of our climate.

CONTACT: [email protected]