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Senate subcommittee schedules hearing for S. 919 'rail-competition' bill


On Sept. 18, the Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee will conduct a hearing on The Railroad Competition Act of 2003 (S. 919), according to National Industrial Transportation League's (NITL) Web site.

Introduced in April, the Senate bill would clarify national rail policy under the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) Termination Act and require Surface Transportation Board to ensure effective competition among railroads at origins and destinations; enforce reasonable rail rates in the absence of effective competition; and maintain consistent and efficient rail service for shippers, including timely distribution of rail cars.

The legislation — also introduced in the House as H.R. 2924 — would require STB to provide "final offer" arbitration of certain rail-rate cases; remove paper barriers in future line sales or leases to regionals and short lines; eliminate ICC's "anti-competitive conduct" test instituted in the mid-1980s for terminal area and switching agreements; place a cap on filing fees in rate cases involving "coal rate guidelines" to federal district court levels; mandate that railroads quote rates to customers between any two points where freight moves originate, terminate or transfer, when requested by a shipper; and declare that all or part of a state is an inadequate area of rail competition if petitioned by a state.

The bill also would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a tri-annual study on the extent of rail-to-rail competition, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a rail customer advocacy office.

Referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, S. 919 is supported by NITL, American Chemistry Council (ACC), Alliance for Rail Competition (ARC), Consumers United for Rail Competition (CURC) and a coalition of 14 shipper associations that includes NITL, ACC, ARC and CURC.

The bill is opposed by the Association of American Railroads, which believes S. 919 is tantamount to re-regulation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/8/2003