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U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has introduced the "Rail Shipper Fairness Act of 2015" aimed at improving rail service for shippers, including farmers, manufacturers and utilities, the senator announced yesterday.Baldwin said the bill would increase rail competition, reform rate case regulations, restructure the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and require freight railroads to be more responsive to their customers. The legislation would help shippers get their products to market faster by resolving service problems, according to a press release."We need to give these shippers a seat at the table," said Baldwin. "This legislation will address the challenges faced by local businesses and help drive our Wisconsin economy forward."The proposed bill also calls for provisions to implement so-called competitive switching, which Baldwin and Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and David Vitter (R-La.) previously called for in a letter to the STB last year.The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has been opposed to an STB rule on competitive switching. The rules would require more rail-car switching and handling to move the same amount of goods, which could affect millions of carloads annually, the AAR has stated.Baldwin's bill and the proposed STB Reauthorization Act of 2015, introduced last week by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), would expand the STB's membership from three to five members.Both bills were praised by Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), which lobbies on behalf of rail shippers."These bills will further the dialogue over much needed reforms at the STB that will improve rail service," said Ann Warner, CURE interim executive director, in a press release.
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