News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak, shipper groups voice support for Biden executive order

Amtrak, shipper groups voice support for Biden executive order

By David Lassen | July 12, 2021

Passenger railroad highlights call for enforcement of on-time rules; shippers applaud emphasis on competition

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Amtrak logoWASHINGTON — Amtrak and shipper groups have welcomed the executive order from President Joe Biden which seeks to increase competition among railroads.

Biden signed the order on Friday, drawing criticism from the Association of American Railroads and some individual Class 1 roads [see “Biden executive order prods STB …,” Trains News Wire, July 9, 2021].

One aspect of the order encouraged the Surface Transportation Board to “vigorously enforce” Amtrak on-time performance standards for host railroads. Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said this “will provide more sustainable and equitable transportation options across America” and that the order will “the nation’s tracks to more frequent and reliable passenger rail service needed for the future mobility of this country.”

The National Industrial Transportation League, the nation’s oldest and largest freight transportation association, said it applauded the administration “for recognizing that current business practices in [rail and ocean shipping] are disrupting and delaying delivery of goods and services, adding unnecessary costs for businesses, and ultimately creating higher costs for consumers. The issuance of this order will not only address these major challenges but also bolster American businesses.” The group also specifically said it was pleased to see the request that the STB advance “proceed with the open rulemaking on competitive rail switching, originally filed by NITL with the STB ten years ago.”

Similarly, the Freight Rail Customer Alliance — which includes trade associations with more than 3,500 member companies ± expressed support for the order.

The organization’s president, Shelly Sahling-Zart, said in a statement that the call to ensure competition was “especially encouraging,” and said the STB could do so by 1 ) enhancing shipper visibility into first mile/last mile service and on-time performance data; 2) implementing all of the  recommendations put forth by the Board’s  Rate Review Task Force; 3) addressing outdated revenue adequacy determination criteria, 3) moving forward on the pending competitive switching proceeding; and, 4) reviewing all rail carrier merger proposals with the utmost scrutiny in order to protect the public interest.”

4 thoughts on “Amtrak, shipper groups voice support for Biden executive order

  1. WMD, The US and Canada truly do NOT want to be a part of Federally-owned infrastructure. There’s a big reason that the UK and Europe have such small loading gauges. It has to do with governments being unwilling to pay for the massive costs involved in upgrading the rights of way. I can also recall a major accident in the UK a decade-or-so ago that took the UK’s infrastructure agency MONTHS to repair. It would have taken no more than a week in North America. I can recall an very interesting essay in Trains some years back (forgive me for not recalling the title) that made the argument that if the RRs in America had been government-owned, the Orin Cutoff would never have been built, all the PRB would still be undeveloped, and (IMO) our power costs in the US would be triple what they are today.

  2. M.E.: Just how do you propose “fair value” be computed? Given the joint and common costs involved this will be not only extremely complex but also somewhat arbitrary. There will always be disagreement. Perhaps the way to solve this is to compensate the freight railroads net liquidation value by the Federal gov’t and open the infrastructure to all. This will relieve the freight railroads of these fixed costs while from the public’s view maximizing use of this technology. It is not likely that society is obtaining all the possible benefits of the steel wheel on steel rail technology when it is operated for Wall St. investors exclusively. There are benefits that return-on-investment alone does not include.

  3. Flynn’s quote is an empty statement and obfuscating. The nation does not own tracks (save the NEC). There is ample competition available: roads go everywhere. In fact I dare say buses could replace Amtrak. Remember when Amtrak was proposing to use a bus bridge for the “Chief”. Don’t these politicians remember what they have stated in the past? Oh, wait. I just answered my own question.

  4. In a sense of fairness, when will the STB review what Amtrak pays the Class 1s to determine the fair value for the use of their private right-of-ways beyond Amtrak expecting yet another source of subsidy beyond Congress and state-supported corridor payments?

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