TOUGHER clean air regulations threaten to undermine the viability of rail services in California, says a report in the International Bulk Journal. The industry is responding with its own emission reduction plan and the development of new engine technology. But there is uncertainty over the impact of these strategies on the industry's competitiveness. The announcement last month that the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has proposed a two-year delay in the implementation of tough clean air regulations in Southern California, has been greeted with relief by the freight industry - with the possible exception of the rail sector. When it was unveiled at the beginning of last year, the Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) met criticism from freight interests. The FIP imposes strict controls on freight vehicle emissions in the Los Angeles Basin and, in its original form, could have a serious impact on freight transport in the region. The railway companies maintain that this is not achievable. 'They are asking for a level of emissions reductions that no current technology can achieve,' said Carol Perkins of the Association of American Railroads.