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Rail News: Amtrak

STB sets schedule for Amtrak Gulf Coast service case

Amtrak service to the Gulf Coast has not been restored since Hurricane Katrina damaged rail infrastructure there in 2005.
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The Surface Transportation Board (STB) late last week granted a motion filed by CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and Amtrak to extend the procedural schedule that addresses Amtrak’s request to operate passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

In March, Amtrak sought an order from the STB that would require CSX and NS to allow Amtrak trains to operate the Gulf Coast service over the Class Is' tracks starting in January 2022. On Aug. 6, the STB, among other things, denied a motion filed by CSX and NS that asked to dismiss Amtrak’s application. The board then adopted a procedural schedule and appointed Administrative Law Judge Thomas McCarthy to handle discovery matters and resolve discovery disputes.

On Sept. 23, all three railroads filed a joint motion to extend the procedural schedule by two weeks, to correspond with a two-week extension of the discovery period ordered by McCarthy. The parties explained the discovery was set to end Sept. 20, but McCarthy had extend the period until Oct. 4.

The STB determined last week that it finds the extension request to be "reasonable" and set a modified procedural schedule.

"However, the parties should be aware that any further requests to extend the procedural schedule, even when agreed to, will be scrutinized closely, and they should not assume that further extensions will be routinely granted," the STB decision stated.

The modified schedule now sets Nov. 3 for CSX and NS to present opening evidence; Dec. 3 for Amtrak’s reply; and Dec. 23 for CSX and NS to submit rebuttal evidence. Proposals for the STB's hearing format must be made by Dec. 30.