WASHINGTON — 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data; 2) implementing all of the recommendations put forth by the Board’s Rate Review Task Force; 3) addressing outdated revenue adequacy determination criteria, 3) moving forward on the pending competitive switching proceeding; and, 4) reviewing all rail carrier merger proposals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.”