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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / CSX, NS again ask for mediation in Gulf Coast case; Amtrak remains opposed

CSX, NS again ask for mediation in Gulf Coast case; Amtrak remains opposed

By | May 26, 2022

Freight railroads, Mobile port chance mediation could succeed has increased; Amtrak says railroads turn down request for modeling, other information

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Freight train with blue and yellow engine leaving main line
Freight train with blue and yellow engine leaving main line
A CSX train enters a passing track at Harbin, Miss., on the proposed route of Amtrak Gulf Coast service, on June 6, 2021. CSX and NS have renewed a request for mediation in the Gulf Coast case before the Surface Transportation board, but Amtrak opposes the proposal. (Bob Johnston)

WASHINGTON — The freight railroads involved in the Surface Transportation Board’s proceeding over Gulf Coast passenger service have again asked that the matter be sent to mediation — and Amtrak is again opposing that request.

In a May 19 filing, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama State Port Authority and its its short line renewed a request for mediation they previously made in March [see “CSX, NS ask regulators to order mediation …,” Trains News Wire, March 28, 2022].

Amtrak opposed that request, which was quickly turned down by the STB on the grounds that not all parties  favored mediation. But the board’ said the parties would be free to ask again following the conclusion of the hearing on the case [see “STB denies mediation request …,” News Wire, April 1].

While the hearing is not yet complete — it is scheduled to resume June 13 — the three parties making the request said in the newest filing that they “are as confident as ever that Board-ordered mediation is warranted,” saying that the 11 days of hearings held so far have provided more information and “a better sense of the Board’s concerns.” Saying “a Board-guided undertaking may succeed where previous efforts have not,” CSX, NS, and the Port are asking for at least 60 days to work with a mediator, who would “understand and validate inputs, assumptions and processes.”

If mediation is not granted, the railroads ask the June 13 deadline for new evidence to be considered when the hearing resumes be moved back to June 30 to accommodate the schedules of CSX and NX’s experts in traffic modeling. They also ask for 30 days for reply comments after the evidence deadline.

Amtrak, in a filing the following day, opposed the railroad request “because CSX and NS have made clear that they do not intend to share information with Amtrak as part of the mediation process, because a stay … would prolong a process that has already taken far too long, and because Amtrak continues to believe that having the Board’s guidance on the legal standards is critical.”

The Amtrak filing says that when approached by CSX and NS about a new proposal for mediation, Amtrak said it was open to the possibility if the railroads agreed to make available modeling and other information about freight traffic and customer service; CSX’s legal counsel said the railroads would not agree to that proposal.

“Given CSX’s and NS’s response to Amtrak’s requests, it is clear to Amtrak that CSX and NS have no intention of entering the mediation process in good faith and with a commitment to transparency,” the Amtrak filing states. “Accordingly, Amtrak urges the board to deny the renewed motion for mediation, including the request for a technical conference.”

The Amtrak filing also opposes extension of the deadline for new evidence.

“It is Amtrak’s position that this invitation for additional evidence was improper, and Amtrak will present this argument at the appropriate time,” the filing reads. “But in any event, affording CSX, NS, and the Port even more time to try to rehabilitate their case when they did not mee their burden of demonstrating unreasonable impairment during an 11-day evidentiary hearing is unwarranted.”

8 thoughts on “CSX, NS again ask for mediation in Gulf Coast case; Amtrak remains opposed

  1. If the parties were to mediate and work out a solution, then Amtrak would face the same uphill battle every single time they try and add a new route to the map (and this route is one that previously had service) so it is understandable that Amtrak would want a ruling to serve as a precedent. The railroads could have settled this dispute a long, long, time ago but having now made their bed, they should be forced to lie in it.

  2. Speculation: The RRs may be afraid that if the whole route operations become public that it will show their mistakes using PSR metrics?

  3. I’m taking Amtrak’s side here; if the railroads refuse to show the data needed to make a proper analysis, mediation will go nowhere. Likewise with the schedule pushback, you’ve known for a while when that next hearing date would be and when your experts would need to be available.

    That said, even if Amtrak gets a favorable ruling, could they really start as soon as they want? They seem to be short on crews to run trains, and more noticeably, crews to maintain those trains. They do seem to have plenty of cars lying around to use on the trains if they can find people to bring them back into service.

  4. Delay, Delay, Delay. NS & CSX’s legal teams must be making a fortune on their Delaying tactics. I have a feeling that by the time everything said and done, each Railroad could have funded at least a third of all the projects that they want Amtrak (the public) to pay for.
    In the mean time the price of these projects is steadily going up due to inflation. Probably cost as much as what’s already spent on California’s high speed rail project.

  5. This should be Oberman’s response: request for mediation, denied, request for extensions, denied. Hearing resumes June 13, you’ve known the date so it should be up to the RR’s to figure out how to get those they want to testify there on time. If any scheduled witnesses fail to show, we will make a decision based on the evidence presented.

    1. GERALD — In all likelihood, what you think should happen, will happen. From what I’ve seen, Oberman has had enough of this stuff and he’s going to move the agenda.

  6. If the STB rules in a way not 100% favorable to CSX/NS, they will go to court and get a restraining order against Amtrak and file suit in federal court to overturn the STB. Delay or not its pretty clear that neither Class 1 will cooperate in this matter.

    It may be years before anything happens.

  7. Well, if you want to see the railroads cooperation just offer them a billion dollars. Then you will get it. Even from the distance I am from all this just reading this blog it is apparent the railroads are still playing that old game of expecting big bucks and then they will cooperate. Its been done time and again.

    The current number of freight trains on the routes makes their arguments terribly ridiculous along with wanting to keep from furnishing the information in question because they know they can not stand up to questioning. Lawyers: as long as they can keep this going the more money they can bill.

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