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CSX must permit Amtrak access to the Choctaw Yard to conduct an engineering survey related to the potential location of a layover track, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) ruled yesterday.
The STB's decision is related to the ongoing dispute between CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and Amtrak over the passenger railroad's plans to offer service on CSX and NS lines between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, starting in early 2022.
Yesterday's ruling responded to Amtrak's request that it be allowed to survey Choctaw Yard as a site for a temporary layover track. Many years ago, Amtrak used track at the yard to store trains for its Gulf Coast Limited and Gulf Breeze services.
Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast ended in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina destroyed track in the area. CSX removed the layover track from Choctaw in 2019.
On Oct. 20, Amtrak requested an interim order from the STB, asserting that "CSX has been unwilling to resolve" the passenger railroad's request to conduct the engineering survey. CSX argued on Nov. 9 that Amtrak’s request was "untimely" and related to other matters in the ongoing dispute over whether Amtrak can restart passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile.
NS also replied to Amtrak’s request on Nov. 9, arguing that it should be dismissed from Amtrak’s request and excluded from any interim order the STB may grant, since NS has not revoked nor altered Amtrak’s access to the involved NS lines.
In the decision issued yesterday, the STB granted Amtrak's request for access to the yard. The board determined that, while untimely, the request was reasonable. The STB also granted NS's request to be dismissed from Amtrak's request, and excluded from any interim order the board may grant, since NS has not revoked nor altered Amtrak's access to NS lines.