STB Passenger Rulings Panned, Applauded

Rail passenger advocates were pleased but the Association of American Railroads was disappointed with rulings issued last week by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board pertaining to Amtrak’s on-time performance.

STBIn one decision, the STB said it would not institute a proposed policy statement that would have given Amtrak’s contract railroads more freedom to determine dispatching preferences.

Instead, the STB said it would consider on a case-by-case basis Amtrak complaints about its trains not being given preferential treatment as required by federal law.

In the second case, the STB said it would consider arrivals and departures at intermediate stations in investigations of on-time performance.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 mandates an average 80 percent on-time requirement for Amtrak trains.

The STB is authorized to investigate instances in which a host railroad is not dispatching Amtrak trains in a way as to reach that standard.

“It is a disappointment the [board] has decided to add mid-point on-time performance measures, which could result in negative impacts for freight rail customers and consumers,” the AAR said in a statement. “But the freight rail industry will continue to work with Amtrak to provide dependable passenger service in the country. In the meantime, we will review the two decisions and evaluate our further legal options.”

On the other hand, Jim Mathews, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said in a statement, “NARP congratulates the STB for coming to the correct decision in these important rulemakings. The STB plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national rail system operates both fairly and efficiently, and in ensuring that Congressional mandates are respected and enforced.”

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