eustis22 wrote:I don't think you can blame PAR for the mills going under. This is about Capital chasing the lowest possible labor/environmental expense at any cost.
No, but the writing has been on the wall for the Maine paper industry for over 20 years and Billerica passed up every opportunity to attempt to diversify MEC traffic. They would've had to prune back lots of the branch network all the same, but that's a very valuable mainline route. All the near-misses and all the short-term experiments in haulage of other goods and whatnot over that span of time attest to the fact that potential customers and interchange partners still see a major asset there in a trans- New England route. But if it takes a day-and-half to get between NMJ and Rigby because they won't maintain that mainline or manage their personnel well enough to go on-time...they aren't reliable enough partners and traffic is going to continue being routed around Maine because it's not worth the trouble.
Now...does the MEC main being a "major" asset in any way equate it to the "major" assets of the B&M side? No, of course not...they're not even within orders of magnitude of each other. But with Southern New England being relatively robust and flush with growth prospects since turn of the century they've got themselves to blame for traffic dropping straight into a crater north of Rigby instead of down the slope of a curve. Diversifying traffic may not replace
the heyday of paper industry carloads, but it can seed enough of a portfolio of small-growth segments to keep a downsized MEC very much viable and valuable. After all, you've got inferior routes with inferior connectivity like CMQR being subject to deep-pocketed bidding wars in the middle
of the paper industry's death throes...so somebody speaking dollars and cents is providing independent verification that there's growth prospects to be had.
Bottom line...it's 2015. How did PAR find itself in a position where it's still
so dependent on single-source traffic over a whole third of its system that we even have to talk about "panic" time in Billerica. Everyone knew this day was coming, including the mill towns who are really really really screwed with few coping options. If they'd made the faintest attempt to diversify since the 90's, the MEC's future would be much more "bend not break" and mid-transition to a different sort of role. Like CMQR is trying to do...only PAR had every opportunity to start doing that a dozen years ago at 5 times the scale. It was their choice to let this become a full-on manufactured crisis instead of a well-anticipated challenge.