Squires emphasizes technology, free trade as path forward for NS, industry

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James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern CEO
Norfolk Southern
CHICAGO — Norfolk Southern President and CEO James A. Squires emphasizes technology and free trade in his keynote presentation at the North American Rail Shippers’ 2018 meeting in Chicago this week.

“We are on the verge of an exciting new era of innovation,” Squires says of the data platform that positive train control will bring to railroading.

“PTC is a big new communications network we can use for a variety of purposes,” he says. “It’s incredibly exciting to watch PTC come to life. We are only just beginning to discover the many uses of data collected through the PTC network”

Squires calls PTC the “backbone” for advancements to come and says “the big data wave is already rolling across the industry.”

One of those advancements may be automation, that he says will evolve to reduce human error.

“Automation in transportation is perceived as controversial, yet it happened long ago in aviation,” Squires says. However, he notes, Rio Tinto in Australia has “already demonstrated that automation in the (rail) industry has arrived.”

The railroad is ready to meet all statutory PTC deadlines set by Congress, Squires says. NS has completed 78 percent of locomotive installations, 93 percent of wayside unit installations, 97 percent of radio tower installations, and 87 percent of employee training. “We’re gonna get it done,” he adds.

As an industry, U.S. railroads are expected to spend $8 billion on PTC before the December 2018 deadline and $10 billion before complete the industry achieves 100-percent interoperability.

On free trade, Squires says that the nation must not turn away from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he says provides jobs for American workers. International markets “must remain open for business,” he says. “NAFTA remains one of the most successful free trade agreements ever brokered by U.S. lawmakers.”

In closing, Squires invokes Chicago Union Station architect Daniel Burnham's famous line: “Make no little plans.”

“Dare to re-imagine what our industry can and will be,” Squires says. “Americas railroads ... are well-positioned to carry out this charge.”
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