THE US government has approved a $1bn loan guarantee programme to improve safety and boost efficiency on over 650 short line and regional railways. Details of the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Programme were unveiled by Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater on May 19.

To be managed by the Federal Railroad Administration, the programme will offer loans and loan guarantees for up to 25 years. Priority consideration will be given to projects that enhance safety, such as the elimination of level crossings, or promote economic development, including track upgrading to accommodate heavier freight wagons. The funding is also intended to ensure the continuation of rail and intermodal services to small communities and rural areas.