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9/19/2007



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Amtrak, Michigan short line agreement addresses passenger-rail line concerns



Count Amtrak as a supporter of Norfolk Southern Corp.’s and the Watco Cos. Inc.’s plan to launch a new short line in Michigan.

Amtrak recently reached an agreement with the NS/Watco Michigan Central Railway joint venture concerning maintenance and investment requirements for lines between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo, Mich., that currently are used by passenger trains.

As part of the pact, Amtrak agreed to back Michigan Central’s Surface Transportation Board application to gain control of the lines. In return, the short line will work with Amtrak to upgrade the lines and boost passenger trains’ on-time performance.

The agreement presents Amtrak an opportunity to improve and expand service on the lines, said Paul Vilter, Amtrak’s assistant vice president-host railroads, in a prepared statement.

In July, NS and Watco announced plans to form the Michigan Central to preserve and expand freight service on line segments between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo, Mich.; Jackson and Lansing, Mich.; and Grand Rapids, Mich., and Elkhart, Ind. The short line also would acquire NS’ trackage rights on Amtrak’s line between Kalamazoo and the Michigan/Indiana state line.

Subject to STB approval, the Michigan Central expects to launch operations in first-quarter 2008.


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