North America’s railroads have offered to assemble a team of experts to travel to South Asia to help rebuild critical rail lines that were destroyed by the tsunami that hit that region on December 26.

According to recent press reports, medical supplies, food and other humanitarian relief are being delivered by helicopter because roads, bridges and railways have been washed out. Many aid agencies and charitable organizations are having problems distributing aid to the affected regions because of the lack of infrastructure.

“The tsunami decimated the countries’ infrastructure,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “Recognizing the importance of that infrastructure in delivering aid to the tsunami victims, America’s railroads want to assist in this effort to rebuild.”

In a letter to US Department of Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, Hamberger said the railroad industry is “prepared to recruit and support a multidisciplinary team of experts in rail infrastructure to travel to South Asia to help rebuild the all-important railroad lines in the affected areas.”

DOT is part of an inter-agency group working to assess needs and direct U.S. reconstruction assistance in the tsunami-impacted region.

“Assistance from groups like the Association of American Railroads (AAR) will be a crucial element of the US reconstruction effort,” wrote Mineta in a Jan. 27 letter. “To that end, the State Department, working with the US Agency for International Development, has been assembling a list of private sector entities that have expressed a willingness to assist and their capabilities. We will ensure that the AAR is included on that list, and will be in touch as specific reconstruction priorities are identified.

“On behalf of the Administration, let me thank you and the railroad industry for your generous offer.”

Hamberger said that the rail industry effort could be led by experts from the Transportation Technology Center, Inc., (TTCI) an AAR subsidiary that operates a world-renowned research and test facility in Pueblo, Colo. TTCI has conducted substantial amounts of research and testing for railroads throughout the world.