By Jorg Finsinger
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Pricing Issues in the Deregulation of Railroad Rates 37 In markets where these competitive forces are strong, the price that a rail carrier can obtain for its service will be determined by the market. By this we mean, first, that there is a price (sometimes called the 'choke price') above which the rail carrier would find virtually no demand for its service, because shippers would find it less costly to utilize other transportation services, or because receivers would find similar or substitute commodities available at lower delivered prices.
This concept is unambiguously defined to reflect the sensitivity of demand for the carrier's service to changes in the price set by the carrier for the service. It is clear that all factors that influence a rail carrier's elasticities of demand are relevant for the carrier's Ramsey prices. These factors may include the value of the commodity shipped, intermodal competition, intramodal competition, source competition, interport competition, and the substitutability of other commodities for the one shipped at its destination.
One is driven to the suspicion that (apparent) ease of calculation threatens to become an over-riding consideration taking precedence over any consequences for social welfare and economic efficiency. In any event, the shortcomings of fully distributed cost as a criterion for rate ceilings need not be inferred merely by presumption. As we will now show, fully distributed cost ceilings fail badly on both the counts we have been emphasizing: they can effectively preclude the earning of adequate revenues by a regulated railroad and they undermine any hope for the achievement of efficient utilization of transportation resources.