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7/17/2003



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR activates online tool to support lobby against re-regulation legislation


As part of a grassroots lobbying effort to oppose re-regulation bills, Association of American Railroads recently activated Web-based legislative-action tool CapitolConnect™.


Accessible at www.capitolconnect.com/aar, CapitolConnect is designed to enable users to contact elected officials about targeted issues.
AAR opposes the Surface Transportation Board Reform Act of 2003 (H.R. 2192) and Railroad Competition Act of 2003 (S. 919).


S. 919 would require Surface Transportation Board to ensure effective competition among railroads at origins and destinations; enforce "reasonable rail rates in the absence of effective competition"; and maintain "consistent and efficient" rail service for shippers, including timely distribution of rail cars.


"AAR strongly opposes attempts to re-regulate the railroads and damage the freight-rail industry," said AAR officials on the association's Web site.


The bill also would require U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a tri-annual study on the extent of rail-to-rail competition, and U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a rail customer advocacy office.


S. 919 would "force railroads to offer lower-than-market rates to favored shippers at the expense of others, allow government regulators to set rail rates and service conditions, and force rail rates to dangerously low levels — effectively restricting rail earnings," Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials said in a prepared statement.


The bills are supported by shipper groups, including American Chemistry Council (ACC), Alliance for Rail Competition (ARC), Consumers United for Rail Competition (CURC) and National Industrial Transportation League (NITL).


Recently, 14 shipper associations formed a coalition to lobby Congress in support of the bills, including: ACC; ARC; CURC; NITL; Agricultural Ocean Transportation Coalition; American Plastics Council; American Public Power Association; Edison Electric Institute; Fertilizer Institute; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Barley Growers Association; National Petrochemical & Refiners Association; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; and Paper & Forestry Industry Transportation Committee.


"This is the first time in 20 years that the major rail customers have coalesced around a specific remedy to end monopolistic practices involving captive shippers," said ACC President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Lebedev in a prepared statement. "We may never have a better opportunity to bring about real competition in the rail sector."


The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation are debating the bills.




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