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Amtrak passenger rail service plan debated at federal hearing

History is being made this week as the Surface Transportation Board hears arguments from both...
History is being made this week as the Surface Transportation Board hears arguments from both sides of the passenger rail service issue.(WLOX)
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 2:33 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - History is being made this week as the Surface Transportation Board hears arguments from both sides of the passenger rail service issue.

On one side, Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission. On the other side, CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

At issue is $66 million worth of infrastructure improvements between Mobile in New Orleans.

CSX & Norfolk Southern said in their opening arguments Monday that Amtrak has been way too aggressive in their passenger rail service plan.

“We need collaboration between the parties to settle on the most cost-effective way to add new passenger trains without harming the freight service,” said Ray Atkins, an attorney for CSX. “The law and the record does not support Amtrak’s aggressive demands. And let there be no doubt, Amtrak’s demands are aggressive.”

They also say bringing in passenger rail service without those improvements will slow down the freight train schedules. Meanwhile, Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission say the other freight companies have dragged their feet on this issue.

“We shouldn’t have to be here,” said Marc Magliari with Amtrak. “The point is, these freight railroads have obstructed and blocked a very needed and very much desired service. This board has the authority to make the decision that says Amtrak will not unreasonably impair freight service and we want to bring the service here as soon as possible.”

The opening arguments started Monday. The hearing should last all week. This is the first time the board has ever had to rule on a freight rail case.

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