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AAR's Hamberger to STB: Passenger-rail expansion shouldn't impede freight-rail growth


Freight railroads support efforts to expand passenger-rail service where needed, but such expansion should preserve and provide for freight-rail growth. That’s the message Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger delivered to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) last week.

During the board’s Feb. 11 hearing on the implementation of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, Hamberger urged the STB to take into account the operational realities of the freight-rail system when designing passenger-rail on-time performance metrics.

“There are many constraints on the U.S. freight system that need to be factored when deciding what does or does not constitute a delay,” said Hamberger. “Many segments of the nation’s freight-rail network are today congested due to high volumes of traffic, and such congestion is only going to worsen as future demand for freight transportation skyrockets.”

Any performance measure should identify and separate “avoidable” from “unavoidable” delays, and all delays should be attributed to the responsible party, Hamberger believes.

“When something goes wrong somewhere on the rail network, it often has a cascading effect leading to train delays elsewhere,” he said.

Hamberger also urged the STB to establish principles used in track or right-of-way mediation proceedings between passenger and freight rail that further the preservation and expansion of freight-rail service.

He suggested that arrangements be voluntary; freight railroads be fully compensated; commuter authorities provide the additional capacity they need for their operations; freight railroads be protected from liability from passenger operations; and all operating issues be addressed.

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More News from 2/20/2009