ASPECTS OF JOINT USE
Under the traditional structure, each railroad company functions as an independent entity, providing its own fixed way and its own carrier services. Unlike the other modes' carriers which routinely share fixed ways, railroad companies do not usually engage in joint use of fixed ways. The categories of joint use which are found in the railroad industry play an important role as examples showing the feasibility of joint use and the limitations imposed on it by the traditional structure.
Railroad companies enter into certain types of joint operations in which two or more railroads coordinate train service, with each railroad retaining exclusive use of its own tracks. These operations allow railroad companies to integrate independent carrier services to a limited extent. Even though corporate boundaries are respected, coordinated operations indicate the degree of standardization achieved in the railroad industry. In recent years, the Federal Railroad Administration has implemented standards and policies which further encourage standardization and joint use.
Unlike the other modes which routinely share fixed ways, joint use of trackage plays a minor role in the railroad industry. Joint ownership and trackage rights are two means for sharing track.
During previous eras of railroad construction, two competing railroads occasionally compromised and built a jointly owned railroad. In other cases, two or more railroads purchased another railroad to guarantee themselves a "friendly" connection. Owner railroads might share the joint line's trackage, as was often done with terminal railroads serving large cities. In many instances, however, the jointly owned railroad company maintained exclusive use of its own tracks, and even its owners had to interchange cars moving over the joint line.