Sir - I am pleased that my modest observations (RG 1.07 p13) prompted such a lively response from Philip N Mortimer (RG 4.07 p196).A direct comparison of North American and European railway practices is pointless - the political, structural, geographical and historic differences are all too obvious. My observations stem from recent trips across Europe: elimination of sidings newly-built industrial and warehouse sites lacking rail access (but having superbly improved, publicly-funded road connections) only one freight train seen during a day and a half traversing la France profonde a conversation with friendly staff, who in response to inquires about freight on a branch line seemed at loss to understand what I was asking about (and it was not a linguistic barrier). These observations are supplemented by news of continual difficulties affecting cross-border flows.While I am not suggesting slavishly following the North American model, I would like to point to three areas for closer consideration:? The phenomenal success of shortlines and regionals, acting as retailers to large, wholesale Class I railroads. Shortlines and regionals generate and receive traffic otherwise deemed unprofitable by the largest carriers. The keen interest of small owner-operators, low overheads, intimate knowledge of local markets, one bill-of-lading, reasonable and predictable interconnections, trackage rights and revenue-sharing truly work miracles.? The importance of ’just-in-time’ factors may be overestimated, as the value of the goods may not justify rapidly-growing shipping and handling charges, particularly in a high labour cost environment. Predictability and confidence in exact delivery times may rank higher in shippers’ decisions, hence the rapidly growing importance of real-time information.? A doggedly door-to-door approach to salesmanship by most, if not all, railroads.Nothing would be more satisfying than news indicating growing European freight loadings, denser traffic, increasing revenues and satisfactory profits.Piotr KumelowskiForest Hills, New York, USA