News & Reviews News Wire CSX offers scorching response to Amtrak request to compel cooperation

CSX offers scorching response to Amtrak request to compel cooperation

By David Lassen | November 10, 2021

| Last updated on April 4, 2024

In STB filing, freight railroad says Amtrak seeks 'blank check' regarding Gulf Coast service, claims passenger railroad is to blame for delay in starting service

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Station platform, with tracks running under building
The platform where Amtrak trains used to stop in Mobile, Ala., remains in place on June 7, 2021. A CSX train is visible in the distance on the far side of the city’s convention center. CSX has asked the Surface Transportation Board to turn down an Amtrak request for an order compelling cooperation in its ongoing efforts to launch Gulf Coast service. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s request for cooperation from CSX has received a harsh response from the freight railroad.

A CSX filing with the Surface Transportation Board says the passenger railroad is seeking “unrestrained access” to the route of proposed service between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., and wants “a blank check to perform whatever work it wants … without any explanation of what it proposes to do.” As such, the railroad argues, it provides no reason for the board to grant Amtrak’s request for an interim order compelling CSX cooperation, as requested in October [see “Amtrak asks STB to compel cooperation by CSX …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 20, 2021].

That request is part of the larger, ongoing effort by Amtrak asking the STB to force CSX and Norfolk Southern to permit the start of Gulf Coast service [see “Amtrak asks STB to require CSX, NS to allow …,” News Wire, March 16, 2021]. Last week, the two railroads argued such service would cause major problems for freight traffic [see “CSX, NS say Gulf Coast passenger service would ‘devastate’ freight operations,” News Wire, Nov. 4, 2021].

Norfolk Southern, which was also part of Amtrak’s October request for the interim order, filed a brief response saying it should not have been included since it has provided Amtrak with access as requested. It asked the board to dismiss NS from any interim order that may result.

The significantly redacted public version of CSX’s filing omits portions of its introduction; parts of its argument that Amtrak service will significantly impair freight operations; a portion of its statements outlining the need for a station and layover track in Mobile; part of its claim that the condition of stations along the route are delaying the start of service; and a section of its argument blaming Amtrak for delays in the start of service. It also omits omits five of its 15 exhibits.

But the primary thrust of its filing is that Amtrak’s request, which stems  from the passenger railroad’s stated desire to survey the railroad’s Choctaw Yard in Mobile for a possible layover track for Gulf Coast trains, is twofold: First, that the request constitutes a belated request for discovery, after the discovery period in the case over Gulf Coast service has ended, and second, that construction of a layover track “would create massive disruptions” and would be both unsafe and premature. (The CSX filing says it understood Amtrak’s request to mean the passenger railroad actually wanted to begin construction).

Among other points, Amtrak’s filing asserted that CSX had removed a track at Choctaw Yard that had previously been used for layovers for prior versions of Gulf Coast service; CSX says Amtrak did not propose the use of Choctaw until July 14, 2021; that the last train to use the line, the Sunset Limited, did not lay over in Choctaw, and that Amtrak had not paid to maintain or shown a contractual obligation to maintain that track.

In a number of points, CSX places the delay in starting Gulf Coast service on Amtrak. It cites internal document it says show that Amtrak “has known for some time that it was ill prepared to being service on the timetable it represented to the board,” and says Amtrak is at fault for “regulatory oversights and the inability to obtain timely funding approvals.”

In response to a request for comment from Trains News Wire, Amtrak said it will “review the filing and will respond accordingly.”

23 thoughts on “CSX offers scorching response to Amtrak request to compel cooperation

  1. What is really the point of Amtrak between New Orleans and Mobile? Mobile only has a 191K population. Maybe something like an RDC would make sense but might as well take a bus. They need to go to Jacksonville and connect with those trains for it to really make sense.

  2. This article is so poorly written that I could not understand what the author was attempting to say. First, in the sixth paragraph, what does “that the request constitutes a belated request”, mean? That paragraph is 99 words long and is just one sentence. It is completely indecipherable and incomprehensible! The next paragraph is 78 words longs and is also only one sentence. Since when did every paragraph have to be only one sentence long? Meaningful writing includes commas, semi-colons, colons AND periods. Frequently, the most impactful sentences are only a few words long.

  3. I don’t know how many railroads have pulled this kind of stuff when Amtrak wants to add a train. SP was famous for it and so were many others outside the north east. They raise all kinds of hell until AMTRAK or government coughs up several million dollars and then allow the train. In this case one each way a day which by the way, used to run on this route . They admit they only run 4 freights a day each way on the route. So how can two 4 to 7 car passenger trains mess up their playhouse? They won’t. But that will not stop the crap coming from CSX. There is money to be had and CSX won’t give in until the money comes. Then they will replace a few ties (that needed to be even without the Amtrak trains) and the declare the route ok for Amtrak. I am not a fan of Amtrak but, I am a fan of fair play.

  4. Time for the STB to slap CSX down. There is no point in trying to appease them, they will simply keep delaying, stalling and coming up with new excuses. This is such a bogus argument and its all about CSX and NS trying to create a precedent for obstructing other Amtrak projects. Since CSX will likely turn to the courts eventually no matter what the STB does the gov’t might as well get on with that.

    Rails like CSX need to be taught that cooperation with Amtrak is less costly and more time efficient than blind opposition.

  5. Something I find rather irritating is a dispute in which I have little sympathy for either side — Thus the expression, “I’m not interested in watching the two of you argue. Take it out to the parking lot.”

    As forum members have pointed out above, CSX is being greedy and pig-headed. Which seems to run in CSX’s DNA. The other side of the dispute is the passenger train advocates who think a train from Mobile to New Orleans means anything in the big scheme of things.

    All of us have ridden trains in regions where passenger trains mean something. In my own case, Northeast USA, Chicago, England and Netherlands, places with favorable coverage, favorable frequencies, and predictable connectivity. Where you can get there from here. New Orleans to Mobile twice daily doesn’t qualify.

    1. Trains can work there. Low costs and good times will be very attractive in an area with booming tourism.

    2. It qualifies if it’s morning and evening in both directions, in that it allows those unable to use other forms of transportation to go between those cities and the intermediate stops. Also, you have to build service up from a beginning, you just don’t start with 15 round trips a day(not even Brightline did that, though they started with more than 2).

  6. Suggest a review of the land grants may be in order. The phase “Wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a good story” comes to mind.

  7. I don’t have any sympathy for CSX. To them it’s all about “what have you done for me lately?” Nevermind the huge land grants they were given 150 years ago to build. Nevermind the fact that Amtrak SAVED them. They never repay the favor. When Amtrak was established, it was mandated the freight companies give Amtrak priority on their tracks. They continue to disregard that which is the major reason the train I take is always late. Freight cos just leave stuff on the main lines and then Amtrak has to wait for someone to come pick up the cars. They won’t give them priority. Not even granting them access at all is really awful.

    1. “…Amtrak SAVED them”? After NRPC axed 2/3 of all passenger trains a railroad exec was quoted to say, “If they had allowed us to do that we’d still be running them.” Be careful not to be swept up in the narrative.

    2. Alexander, I mostly agree, but as an Eastern railroad, CSX and predecessors likely received few if any land grants

    3. What land grants did the CSX predecessors get? You’re just making stuff up to justify your desired toys.

  8. I am saddened by the thinking of many of my “fellow railfans”. I think the budget passedby Biden is great news. But we have to get others with theproram.

    1. It is a waste of time. There are too many Randall O’Tooles on sites like this that aport nothing of value to the conversation, and just stammer on about spending, without realizing the need for it.

  9. I’d hardly call two trains a day “unrestricted access”.

    If four new trains each day is going to kill your operations on a line maybe it’s time to invest in capacity improvements and shut up because holy hell, can’t we just have nice things?

    1. Yeeeaaaahhhh.

      Either CSX is criminally incompetent or just desperate to extract maximum tax dollars to pay for work that should be doing anyways. Both par for the course in American railroading.

  10. By the time any such cooperation is promised, either 1) no one will be interested anymore or 2) there will be another hurricane.

    1. Well, Kenneth, I wouldn’t go that far, to call Amtrak useless. Allow me to meet you half way. I’d say that Amtrak as a far-flung assortment of low-frequency trains with little or no connectivity, going to a limited number of destinations, essentially irrelevant in the scheme of things.

      Will adding a train from New Orleans to Mobile get me to Columbus, Las Vegas, Nashville, or Austin? No.

    2. What we need is the return of private passenger rail outside of Brightline. Eliminate the long distance trains and focus on corridors such as; Nashville, Columbus, Oklahoma City, etc.

    3. I’m not sure why you included Austin. The Texas Eagle stops there daily each direction.

    4. Give them hell, Amtrak. It is time for these giant corporations to get out of the way of progress for the American people.

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