Amtrak Wants STB to Expedite Case Against CSX, NS

Amtrak this week asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to give its case against CSX and Norfolk Southern expedited handling.

The passenger carrier brought an action against the two railroads last March over their alleged refusal to cooperate in connection with the launch of passenger train service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

However, in its filing this week, Amtrak acknowledged that both freight carriers have responded to its call for access so it can prepare for a service launch on or around Jan. 1, 2022.

The proposal to launch New Orleans-Mobile service has languished for the past five years in part because of a never completed traffic study to determine what infrastructure improvements are needed on the route before it can host passenger trains.

The route until August 2005 hosted the tri-weekly Sunset Limited east of New Orleans. That service was suspended due to damage to stations and track during Hurricane Katrina.

Most of the route is owned by CSX with NS operating a portion of what Amtrak would use in the New Orleans area.

Amtrak asked the STB last March to institute a proceeding and establish the procedural schedule proposed for a hearing and an order requiring CSX and NS to allow Amtrak to operate twice daily round-trip Gulf Coast service on their lines.

CSX and responded by asking regulators to dismiss the Amtrak petition.

Amtrak also is seeking an interim STB order requiring CSX and NS to provide Amtrak with access to their rail lines between New Orleans and Mobile in order to perform all necessary preparations for the Gulf Coast service.

This week Amtrak said CSX by a letter dated June 30 granted Amtrak’s request for access to CSX property and personnel so that Amtrak can: (1) conduct a survey for an interim layover track in Mobile; (2) undertake repairs to stations in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Mobile; and (3) begin the process of qualifying Amtrak crews to operate along the Gulf Coast corridor.

In a letter dated May 17, 2021, NS said Amtrak’s existing service over NS lines in New Orleans would fully facilitate Amtrak’s access to the safety and operational information Amtrak sought to obtain.

The passenger carrier indicated that in the wake of receiving those letters it is moving ahead with preparations to launch the Gulf Coast Service.

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