News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak argues against mediation in Sunset Limited case, asks STB to begin investigation

Amtrak argues against mediation in Sunset Limited case, asks STB to begin investigation

By | February 7, 2023

Filing calls Union Pacific complaints over schedule a ‘red herring’

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The Sunset Limited pauses at El Paso, Texas, in 2016. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Responding to filings from the host railroads involved, Amtrak has argued against “adversarial, party-driven litigation” or mediation in its request for the Surface Transportation Board to investigate poor timekeeping by the Sunset Limited, and urged the board to open that investigation immediately.

In a Feb. 3 filing, the passenger carrier argues that such litigation — as proposed by Canadian National — is “contrary to the plain text” of Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, under which it has brought its complaint to the board. That statute, it says, calls on the STB “to initiate an investigation,” gather information, and make recommendations or award damages. Similarly, among other reasons for arguing against mediation — as sought by Union Pacific — it says the statute “does not contemplate Board-ordered mediation as a prerequisite.”

Amtrak made the first-of-its-kind request for an STB investigation in December, taking aim primarily at Union Pacific operating practices [see “Amtrak asks federal regulators to investigate …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 9, 2022]. UP asked for mediation in its response in January, while CN — which mostly claimed it should not have to be part of the case — argued against the procedures proposed by Amtrak [see “UP asks STB to order mediation …,” News Wire, Jan. 30, 2023]. BNSF Railway and Norfolk Southern have also offered brief filings asking the board to follow previous practice regarding discovery and litigation.

Union Pacific’s filing argued that the current Sunset Limited schedule is the “root cause” of the train’s timekeeping issues because it is not aligned with the customer on-time performance metric and standard established by the Federal Railroad Administration. Amtrak, in its response, argues that this is a “red herring,” and that the current schedule includes sufficient recovery and dwell time to be aligned with the metric.

4 thoughts on “Amtrak argues against mediation in Sunset Limited case, asks STB to begin investigation

  1. Amtrak has cried wolf – it’s the freight trains fault – for so long they’ve painted themselves into a quite a corner.

    We could soon see that most if not all of the delay problems Amtrak has blamed on their freight hosts are actually Amtrak’s fault.


    The devil’s in the detail, eh.

  2. Unlike how Amtrak operates, the UP is a respectable Class 1 freight railroad. The UP should not be hung out to dry because under current CEO Gardner, Amtrak continues to struggle indoctrinating its airline-oriented corporate management how a railroad operates, desperately recruit replacements for operating crews and shop craft maintenance workers encouraged to leave by management with buy-outs/lay-offs.

    Amtrak itself sabotages its “Sunset Limited” by operating a tri-weekly schedule, as if it was in the former Soviet Union. To what extent does such a half-ass schedule impose difficulties on UP’s efforts re dispatching, let alone bump up costs to Amtrak for stations, crews, etc?

    Since CEO Gardner’s effort to cut payroll costs impacting its maintenance forces, how is the UP liable for costs incurred because Amtrak cannot competently maintain its equipment to adhere to schedule?

    The STB should rule in this case on the track slot as an economic value; if Amtrak is late more than 5 minutes late/delayed, the slot reverts to is there and ready to go.

  3. Amtrak needs to spend their time and money to build dedicated rail for our passenger trains. Doing so would eliminate all the legal entanglements with freight rail resulting in no delays by freight rail!!!

    1. Okay, Tori. Pick up a map and a sharpie (and a calculator with a dollar sign and lots of zeroes) and tell us what exactly you have in mind. Also a calendar where each square is a decade of effort.

      Sketch out a route from New Orleans to LAUS that doesn’t involve UPRR or BNSF. And cost it out for us. Then go on to all the other routes from Miami to Seattle, Maine to San Diego, and everywhere in between. Get back to us when you’re done.

      Meanwhile, during the dozens of decades and quadrillions of dollars until this is finished, where do we run the passenger trains.

      Tori, I don’t mean to be sarcastic. I can’t find gentler words to say you’re way past unrealistic. Some people want CNR’s frieght line out of Waukesha, Wisconsin, close to where I live. I couldn’t come up with an alternate route to save my soul, let alone figure out how to pay for it. And that’s just a few miles, not an entire nation.

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