The Rail World team has a truly unique experience throughout the world in railway acquisition, privatization, investment and development. The achievements of Rail World team members began in 1987 when Mr. Edward A. Burkhardt formed a company, Wisconsin Central, to acquire a rail system, which the then owner, Soo Line Railroad, considered unprofitable and wished to sell. Mr. Burkhardt formed an acquisition team and assembled the finance to make the purchase.
Within a short period Wisconsin was transformed into a profitable railroad and over the next 12 years underwent remarkable growth. The system has expanded to 4,480-route km, extending across the border into the province of Ontario, Canada. In 1991, Wisconsin Central made a highly successful Initial Public Offering, and became publicly owned.
The results under Mr. Burkhardt's management of Wisconsin Central were consistently impressive with the result that annual revenues grew from less than $100 million to over $350 million. Wisconsin Central was one of the few US railways earning its cost of capital, and its investors were well rewarded.
Mr. Burkhardt headed the acquisition group that purchased New Zealand Rail Ltd. (subsequently to become Tranz Rail Holdings) from the New Zealand government in 1993, and subsequently developed the company into a model for other nations to emulate. As Chairman of Tranz Rail, he piloted another dramatic turn-around of the business. Tranz Rail was floated on the New Zealand stock market in 1996 and was consistently profitable during Mr. Burkhardt's involvement.
Australia was the location of a further strategic acquisition, in the state of Tasmania, where the network of just below 900 km was acquired in late 1997. Although a small, narrow gauge network, it needed private sector management, investment and innovation to revive the business, which by the time of privatization was losing millions of dollars annually. Australian Transport Network (ATN) was formed to make the acquisition and to invest in further transportation opportunities on the Australian mainland. ATN, with Mr. Burkhardt as Chairman, doubled rail business in Tasmania and achieved consistent profitability.
The most challenging opportunity to attract Mr. Burkhardt's attention came with the decision of the United Kingdom government in 1994 to privatize the entire national railway system of some 16,500 km - by far the single biggest railway privatization in the world. English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS) was formed with Mr. Burkhardt as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1995 and by 1996 had successfully bid for the four rail freight companies spun out of British Rail, which carried most of the UK's rail freight traffic plus a contract to operate charter passenger trains and a dedicated national service for the Royal Mail. EWS commenced a substantial investment program, which included 280 new locomotives and 2,500 new wagons, plus a $20 million under-one-roof operations control and customer service center at Doncaster- the first of its kind in the UK.
Overall, since privatization rail freight handled by EWS had increased by some 35%. This company, directed by Edward Burkhardt until July 1999, operated in an open-access environment. It handled 93% of all rail ton kilometers. EWS carries around 100 million tons of freight per year with 6,000 train operations each week. The company has a fleet of just under 1,000 locomotives, some 12,000 freight cars and 6,000 employees. It has been consistently profitable.