Congratulations to the Vermont Rail System which – again – won the Railway Age award for Shortline of the Year.
Vermont Rail System displayed an “entrepreneurial spirit” to serve customers, according to the magazine which will make the award at the American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association conference in May.
The award will recognize the priority on customers given by Vermont Rail System during the 10 week shutdown of the mainline to build the “Middlebury Tunnel”. Working with VTrans, the railroad arranged a detour via Bellows Falls that used the New England Central Railroad. The goal was no impact on customers and no customer complaints were recorded.
Vermont Rail System owes its success to customer service. It has grown its business over decades. It runs lines given up for dead by other railroads but made a success by VRS.
In many ways the Vermont Rail System acts like a trucking company. Truckers must deliver or the customer will choose another trucker. Rail customers would too if not for the quality of VRS. Like a trucker, VRS largely does not own its infrastructure, which changes the need to depend on private capital and its pressures. Like trucking companies, Vermont Rail System endures, but cannot boast of high margins that would please Wall Street. As a family-owned company, it doesn’t need to and has instead built value over the years.
The value of a customer-focused railroad to Vermont is significant. More freight moves by rail than otherwise would. We benefit from safer transport (twice as safe as a truck) that uses less fuel (⅓ of a truck) and emits less pollution and carbon emissions (⅓ of a truck). This means lower commodity prices in Vermont including lower gas prices.
Other awards going to Vermont Rail System recognized the stellar effort the railroad made helping Pan-Am re-route traffic around the Hoosac Tunnel and the rapid re-opening that occurred after Hurricane Irene.
As a company, Vermont Rail System is not perfect, but when it comes to serving the customers they really do deliver and that really is job #1 and we really do applaud them for this well-deserved recognition.

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