Release #17-16

NARP Calls for Congressional Action to Address Epidemic of Train Delays

For Immediate Release (#17-16)

October 12, 2017

Contact: Xenophon Strategies - (202) 289-4001

During this week’s Surface Transportation Board public listening session on CSX Transportation’s rail service meltdown, NAPR President Jim Mathews warned regulators that a legislative fix will be required to ensure that passengers are able to enjoy the full rights granted to them under current law.

“It’s often said that passenger trains serve as the canary in the coalmine for railroad operations—when host operations degrade, passengers are the first to notice and suffer disproportionately,” Mathews told Acting Chairman Ann Begeman and Board Member Deb Miller. “This is true of the recent CSX service degradations, and while we’re deeply sorry that CSX freight customers face these troubles, we welcome allies in the fight to restore service quality. With that fact in mind, our organization is sounding an alarm—not just about CSX’s network, but about host railroads across the National Network.”

“Unfortunately, many host railroads have demonstrated repeatedly that when there is insufficient enforcement of their statutory obligation to grant preferential dispatching to Amtrak trains, they will default to treating passengers as simply another form of freight. Without some kind of action, this will happen again—and is already happening… The evidence is in, and self-regulation hasn’t worked,” Mathews went on to say. “[We] believe Congress needs to step in and expressly delegate regulation of on-time performance to the Federal Railroad Administration, and needs to define that OTP as all-stations OTP. We’re advocating for Congress to strengthen protections for passengers by enshrining metrics and standards into law, and providing clear thresholds that will allow Amtrak to trigger STB investigations into dispatching practices. These investigations should have clearly defined timelines and, in the event of findings of malpractice, meaningful and significant consequences.”

It was point that was echoed in testimony given by CSX’s own CEO, Hunter Harrison.

“Amtrak…we need to…live up to the contracts... We need to do what we say we’re going to do,” Harrison admitted, before adding: “Now, do freight railroaders love Amtrak? No, probably not. And the groups, to some degree, clash, because it’s almost designed that way. You know you’re not, in my view, you’re not going to solve the problem with Amtrak in some public-private partnership unless there’s something in it for somebody.”

NARP believes that common-sense metrics and standards to quantify quality service, combined with effective oversight, can ensure that host railroads have skin in the game—and that passengers get to their destinations on-time.

Read Mathews' full testimony.

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.

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