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CSX President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison has fired back at a coalition of rail-shipper trade associations that complained to Congress about rail-service disruptions as the Class I implements a restructuring aimed at improving efficiency.In a letter sent Wednesday to the Rail Customer Coalition (RCC), Harrison said CSX was disappointed at the "many unfounded and grossly exaggerated statements" the group has made about CSX's service performance as the Class I implements precision scheduled railroading.On Monday, the coalition wrote to the heads of the Senate and House transportation committees to allege CSX's service deterioration has caused "severe bottlenecks in the delivery of key goods and services, and has put the health of our nation's economy in jeopardy."The RCC called on Congress to open a formal investigation of CSX's recent service problems and encourage the STB to implement tighter regulation of railroads through reciprocal switching. In his letter to the RCC, Harrison noted the coalition never contacted CSX to discuss the service concerns — "most likely because your statements were made to advance your longstanding attack on the balanced approaches of the Staggers Act," he wrote.CSX is working aggressively to implement its new operating plan, Harrison said."The overriding objective of CSX's new operating plan is to provide superior and reliable service to our customers that provides them a competitive advantage and contributes to American business success," Harrison wrote. "The changes we are implementing today will deliver measurable improvements in key service metrics, resulting in our customers' freight moving more consistently, reliably and cost efficiently across the CSX network."CSX is already seeing progress and is "addressing aggressively" its customers' service problems, he added."We will continue to work directly with our customers to address their concerns as we move forward, and encourage them to continue bringing issues to our attention as we accelerate our new operating plan," Harrison wrote. "However, should your coalition wish to discuss other completely unrelated topics like reciprocal switching which are more central to your agenda, we always welcome the opportunity to meet or talk with you at any time."Meanwhile, the STB informed members of the House and Senate transportation committees this week of the board's actions to address the CSX service issues to date. The STB outlined its contacts with CSX and its monitoring of the Class I's new operating plan after the board received informal complaints from shippers about service problems.On Monday, STB Acting Chairwoman Ann Begeman spoke with Harrison to discuss his perspective on the operating plan transition and to confirm the board's concerns over the service problems, STB members wrote in letters to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation."Mr. Harrison indicated that internal metrics are showing that service in some areas is improving, and that he expects further noticeable improvements to be more evident after Labor Day," stated the letter. Begeman told Harrison that the STB would request specific service metrics and "shared the board's strong view that CSX should carefully review its plans affecting the Chicago gateway, given Chicago's key role in the national rail network," the letter stated.The STB has asked for CSX to provide a detailed schedule for the rest of its implementation plan by Aug. 24.
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