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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / CSX, NS ask regulators to order mediation in Amtrak Gulf Coast case (updated)

CSX, NS ask regulators to order mediation in Amtrak Gulf Coast case (updated)

By | March 28, 2022

Amtrak response says sides remain far apart, terms railroads' request "another attempt to further delay" proceeding

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Surface Transportation Board logo

Surface Transportation Board logoWASHINGTON — The three parties opposing Amtrak’s effort to launch Gulf Coast passenger service have asked the Surface Transportation Board to require mediation in the case, set for a hearing before the board in April. Amtrak has filed a response opposing the request.

In a Friday, March 25, joint filing, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama State Port Authority (along with its short line, Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks), say that Amtrak has expressed a desire to reach an agreement with each of them, but has rejected their request to use board-sponsored mediation.

The filing notes that the first portion of the board’s hearing showed there is “an established process” for adding passenger service. “That process broke down in this case for reasons that are no longer relevant,” the filing says. “The Joint Parties are confident that with the help of a Board-appointed mediator, and with technical support from Board staff on the [Rail Traffic Controller traffic] model, the parties can negotiate a settlement of this dispute collectively. A Board-selected mediator, guided by experienced Board staff, may succeed where previous efforts have not.”

The Amtrak response filed today with the STB says that while the passenger railroad “believes an amicable resolution … may be possible,” it opposes the motion “as yet another attempt to further delay a process that has already been delayed too long. At the very least the motion is premature in as much as it presumes the building of infrastructure is necessary for Amtrak to resume the Gulf Coast service, and therefore necessary for the parties to negotiate over.” Should the board not deny the motion outright, Amtrak argues, it should be held until after the hearing set to begin April 4.

The Amtrak filing says the parties “remain very far apart,” and that the railroads and port agency have not agreed among themselves on the infrastructure they consider necessary. It also says it objects to a 30-day delay for mediation because “the board’s guidance on the appropriate legal framework is critical” and that the hearing “should inform the parties’ positions for an potential negotiated resolution after the hearing. …

“CSX and NS have had years to reach a resolution with Amtrak. To file this motion on the eve of an evidentiary hearing that they insisted upon having is yet another delay in a long line of delays.”

The board held two days of proceedings in February, including public comment and a pre-evidentiary hearing, on Feb. 15-16. Those sessions included a strong statement from Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose in support of Amtrak’s position [see “First day of Gulf Coast hearing …,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 15, 2022], as well as an indication that board members were concerned Amtrak was being asked to pay for infrastructure work to benefit the freight railroads [see “Moorman, CSX, and Amtrak weigh in …,” News Wire, Feb. 16, 2022].

 

8 thoughts on “CSX, NS ask regulators to order mediation in Amtrak Gulf Coast case (updated)

  1. Part of the problem is diagrams show CSX never lengthened the sidings to accommodate the current long trains. This means meets have to be saw-bys which can take hours. With a 12-hour “dog law” you can easily see one or both of the crews outlawing and needing a relief crew, which may not exist. In that case, the crew(s) need taxied to a motel to get their rest, returning maybe 10 hours later to get their trains going again.

    Amtrak should run the service with buses (dedicated to rail passengers, not “here’s the Greyhound schedule”) which are far more reliable than current rail practice, but I think the fight is over the principle rather than getting people where they are going.

    Shippers who want their cargo delivered on a timely basis should, and probably already do, use trucks.

    I just hope there’s something left to rebuild from when the Hedge Funds are done with the RR’s.

  2. Sounds like they laid off to many crews during the down turn and like most that did it, are having a hard time getting new employees and training them. It is CSX and NS own fault for the delays mentioned. I am not a fan of Amtrak but, in this case, I hope Amtrak prevails.
    The STB has seen this railroad blackmail attempt every time Amtrak has proposed new service. They should be getting very tired of it.

  3. I just went through downtown Mobile and here’s what I saw. Two NB trains Brookley siding just south of Mobile. One on the main and one in the siding, no crews onboard. Two NB trains at Sibert yard, one on main one on the yard bypass track. Not sure how long they’d been there or if they had crews on board. One SB train in Aka siding just north of the yard, no way for it to get in yard until one of the NB trains leaves. And three of the five trains were probably at least 12,000’ long and had a mid train DPU. You might think that this is because the CSX is so busy between Mobile and New Orleans. But you’d be wrong. It’s piss poor train management is what it is. And what CSX wants Amtrak to do is build more and longer sidings so they can park more trains. Lived here all my life and my dad was a engineer between Mobile and N.O L&N/CSX for 40 years. That section of railroad was once wide open busy and still hosted several Amtrak trains. Maybe if Amtrak gets approved to operate CSX will have to tighten up and move some trains instead of parking them in every available slot. That is if they can find someone who knows how to railroad.

  4. So let’s correct the statement then: “Looks like we’re going to lose the STB case, so let’s bring a mediator and see if we can’t convince them to LEAN more towards our side in the negotiations.” Still sounds like the railroads and Port are afraid of losing entirely, therefore they want to bring in a mediator who’s job it is to get them to some middle ground(which would still require infrastructure improvements among other things). That means they’re afraid the STB says the passenger service can start as is…with the caveat that if service suffers intentionally because of poor dispatching that Amtrak will take them back in front of the STB under the new FRA on time service requirements.

  5. Sounds like ‘we are probably going to lose the STB case, so lets see if we can get a better deal in arbitration’.

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