The Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Nov. 29 decided that Amtrak may access CSX’s Choctaw Yard in Mobile, Ala., as part of its Gulf Coast service planning efforts.
What prompted the move? Here’s a recap:
• In March, Amtrak submitted an application under 49 U.S.C. § 24308(e), seeking an STB order requiring host freight railroads CSX and NS to allow intercity passenger trains to operate over their lines between New Orleans and Mobile. This resulted in months of clashes via STB filings between Amtrak and the freight railroads (as well as years of clashes before STB involvement).
• STB on Aug. 5 decided to institute a proceeding on the proposed service, concluding the matter was “ripe for adjudication,” and on Oct. 15, provided a revised procedural schedule.
• On Oct. 20, Amtrak filed with STB a renewed request for an interim order (download below), asserting that CSX “has been unwilling to resolve a particular access issue”—specifically, Amtrak’s request for access to conduct an engineering survey of CSX’s Choctaw Yard as a site for temporary layover track for Gulf Coast service.
• On Nov. 9, CSX filed a reply (download below), arguing that Amtrak’s Oct. 20 request was “untimely” and should have been made during the discovery period of the STB proceeding, which closed Oct. 4.
• NS also submitted a reply on Nov. 9 (download below), asking to be “dismissed from Amtrak’s request and excluded from any interim order the Board may grant, since [NS] has not revoked nor altered Amtrak’s access to the involved [NS] lines.”
STB wrote in its Nov. 29 decision (download below) that while Amtrak’s request for yard access “is untimely, it is reasonable, and, in the interest of developing a complete record, the request will be granted.” In addition, STB dismissed NS from Amtrak’s request.
Amtrak and CSX provided the following responses to Railway Age on the STB decision:
• “Amtrak appreciates the prompt and favorable ruling.”
• “CSX appreciates the Board’s decision to deny Amtrak’s sweeping request for interim access in most respects and to only grant its request for an engineering study, which the Board recognized was untimely. CSX will comply should Amtrak reach out to gain access for an engineering study.”
What happens next? Under STB’s procedural schedule, Amtrak is slated to provide reply evidence on Dec. 3; CSX and NS are to provide rebuttal evidence on Dec. 23; and proposal(s) on hearing format are due Dec. 30.