Court derails Reading & Northern’s challenge of short line RFP

Written by Railway Age Staff
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Railway Age photo by Stuart Chirls

The Reading & Northern Railroad plans to appeal a ruling dismissing its challenge to bid on short line operating rights in central Pennsylvania.

The SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority on Oct. 17 was granted a summary judgment by Judge Charles Saylor of the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas in Reading’s challenge to a Request For Proposals (RFP) process for a new operating agreement on its lines.

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the Court’s decision, which ignores all of our arguments and evidence,” said R&N President Wayne Michel, in a statement. “The Court has consistently ruled in favor of the local rail authority and it has been clear since the beginning of the case that we would need to seek relief at the appellate level.”

The decision is separate from a legal fight being waged over JRA operating rights by current operator North Shore Railroad and Carload Express, based in Pittsburgh.

Reading & Northern, headquartered in Port Clinton, Pa., challenged the first phase of the RFP, which was issued by the JRA in 2014 seeking operators for its 200 miles of rail lines in eight counties.

Among other grounds, R&N claimed the RFP process was formulated to eliminate it from consideration.

But the court found that R&N’s claims didn’t hold up, according to a report, that it failed to provide required information as part of its RFP submission, as well as sufficient evidence that it was treated unfairly in the RFP process to warrant a trial. At the same time, R&N’s overall goal throughout the process was to force JRA to privatize the rail lines, the company’s representatives testified.

“[We] look forward to having [our] day in court as to the JRA’s illegal competition with private industry and to showcase to the appellate court what the trail judge chose to ignore: the overwhelming evidence of bias and corruption that infected the entire process,” R&N stated.

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