The constantly increasing global demand for energy, coupled with the limited potential for exploiting new sources of energy, is leading us towards a situation in which demand will outstrip supply. This will occur above all in the market for liquid hydrocarbon fuels, with consumption subsequently being adjusted to the levels of production that are physically possible. The second half of the Oil Age will be characterised by this new type of equilibrium.
The usage of the USA rail network is more or less an inverse image of usage of the European one. Here, the transport of passengers, especially on long distance routes, plays a very secondary role compared with the movement of freight, and investment policies are orientated towards fostering this. Most trunk routes have infrastructure designed for axleweights of 30 tonnes or more, and loading gauges are very generous, permitting the double-stacking of containers and the transport of HGV trailers on ordinary platform wagons. On single track routes passing loops are very long, so the length of trains is not limited in this respect as it is in Europe. There are numerous intermodal terminals. All this means that the road network is relatively free of HGVs when compare to Europe, with consequent savings in the consumption of diesel fuel. The rail/ road freight modal split in the USA demonstrates that rail enjoys double the share that it has in Europe, and national transport policies ensure that this share continues to rise. Here we see a triple-headed Norfolk Southern container train - note that the containers are double-stacked. The lead locomotive is a Dash 9 diesel.
Photo: Norfolk Southern