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Senate bill's sister: Rail competition legislation enters House


On July 25, Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) introduced to the U.S. House The Railroad Competition Act of 2003 (H.R. 2924), which would require railroads to quote rates to customers, provide arbitration for certain rail rates and services, and enable Surface Transportation Board to address areas lacking "adequate" rail competition.

The bill would "restore a measure of competition to our nation's freight-rail marketplace" and end railroads' "price gouging," Baker believes.

"The bill would remove artificial protections maintained by an outdated policy, which allows freight railroads to operate in an atmosphere which no other business in the country enjoys, including exemption from anti-trust law," he said in a prepared statement.

H.R. 2924 is a sister bill to Railroad Competition Act of 2003 (S. 919), which was introduced in the Senate April 11 and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The bills are supported by shipper groups, such as American Chemistry Council (ACC), Alliance for Rail Competition (ARC), Consumers United for Rail Competition (CURC) and National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), as well as a recently formed coalition of 14 shipper associations that includes ACC, ARC, CURC and NITL.

"Imagine living in a city with only one gasoline station that opened occasionally and didn't post its prices until you finished filling your tank," said ACC President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Lebedev. "That's what America's chemical makers and other companies are subject to every day. The solution is simple: let the railroads compete for business, like other American companies."

Class Is and Association of American Railroads oppose the bills, which they believe will re-regulate the industry, force railroads to offer lower-than-market rates to favored shippers at the expense of others, enable government regulators to set rail rates and service conditions, and restrict rail earnings.

AAR recently activated Web-based legislative-action tool CapitolConnect™ as part of a grassroots lobbying effort.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/29/2003