To the Congress of the United States:
I am today sending to the Congress the Railroad Revitalization Act. This legislation is the result of several years of study and consultation with industry and Congressional authorities. It builds on the Surface Transportation Act which was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives last December. In view of the prior work in the 93rd Congress and the serious needs of the Nation's railroads, I am confident that the Congress can and will act quickly.
The purpose of this legislation is threefold: (1) To improve the regulations under which the railroads operate and promote economic efficiency and competition, (2) to provide necessary financial assistance to improve and modernize rail facilities, and (3) to encourage rational restructuring of the Nation's railroads and improve their long-term viability. To achieve these objectives, the legislation proposes specific amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act to permit increased pricing flexibility, to expedite ratemaking procedures, to outlaw anticompetitive rate bureau practices and to improve and expedite merger and other restructuring actions. In addition, the bill will make available $2 billion in loan guarantees.
Submission of this bill is part of my Administration's overall program to revitalize our entire free enterprise system. It is the first of several legislative proposals seeking fundamental reform of the regulatory practices which govern the economics of the transportation industry. Such regulation, established long ago, in many instances no longer serves to meet America's transportation or economic needs. Consumers too often bear the costs of inefficient regulation in the form of either inadequate service or excessive cost. Therefore, in addition to this railroad bill, I will soon submit proposed legislative reforms for both trucking and airline regulation. Taken together, these proposals, when enacted, could save consumers billions of dollars annually and conserve substantial amounts of scarce energy resources.
While I recognize the state of our entire transportation system needs treatment, I am well aware that the Nation's railroads are in a crisis. Large parts of the rail system are in a state of physical deterioration. Some railroads are in bankruptcy and others are on the brink of financial collapse. For this reason, I am sending to the Congress railroad reform proposals first, and I urge action without delay.
The rail problem has been neglected too long and the desperate condition of the industry is indicative of this neglect. We must begin at once a major and massive initiative to restore the vitality of this essential industry. I have established for this Administration a goal that calls for the complete revitalization of the Nation's railroad system so it can serve the needs of modern America. We are moving forward with a program to assure a healthy, progressive rail system. The Railroad Revitalization Act is a critical part of this program. I have directed the Secretary of Transportation to lead this effort and to make its achievement one of his prime concerns.
A major problem faced by the railroad industry is outdated and excessive Federal regulation. Much regulation, originally imposed to prevent monopoly abuses and promote development in the western States, has long since outlived its original purposes. Indeed, Federal regulation has grown so cumbersome that it retards technical innovation, economic growth, and improved consumer services. The legislation I propose will improve significantly the regulatory climate in which all railroads operate. Removal of unnecessary and excessive regulatory constraints will enable this low-cost, energy-efficient form of transportation to operate more effectively, to provide better service, and to more fully realize its great potential. The increased efficiencies resulting from these reforms will produce energy savings on the order of 70,000 barrels of oil per day.
In addition to improving the regulatory environment in which the Nation's rail system functions, this legislation will make available to the rail industry financial assistance which it must have to accomplish necessary modernization of outdated plant and equipment. This assistance will be in the form of $2 billion in long-term loan guarantees so that the Nation's railroads can repair deteriorating roadways and obtain badly needed modern equipment and facilities at reasonable costs. In addition, discriminatory State taxation of the rail industry will be outlawed.
The legislation will also provide special procedures to hasten major restructuring of the rail industry by enabling the Secretary of Transportation, as a condition for granting financial assistance, to require applicants to undertake fundamental restructuring actions. These actions will be governed by expedited merger procedures under which the Secretary and the ICC can facilitate the desired restructuring. I have directed Secretary Coleman to take all steps necessary to cooperate with the Congress so that this important and vital legislation can become law in the very near future.
In view of the rail system's role in our Nation's economy, I urge the Congress to give this measure immediate consideration. The importance of regulatory reform to the efficiency of our transportation system cannot be over-emphasized. While special interests may resist these necessary changes, I am confident that the benefits to the American people will be so great and so clear that the Congress will act quickly.
GERALD R. FORD
The White House,
May 19, 1975.