By Justin Franz
WASHINGTON — If everything goes its way, CSX Transportation hopes to officially acquire Pan Am Railways on Jan. 28, 2022.
On Thursday, the Class I railroad filed a proposed procedural schedule with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the federal panel that has to review the deal. The filing comes a week after the STB ruled that the acquisition was “significant,” delaying what CSX had hoped would be a quick review of the deal.
CSX had previously argued that the transaction was “minor” because they believed it would not negatively impact shippers or competition in the region. A minor transaction would have also helped the railroad meet its original goal of sealing the deal by mid-2021. But a cascade of comments in recent weeks from other railroads and states have muddied the water and the STB said it would need more time to determine if the acquisition was in the public interest.
In Thursday’s filing, CSX stated it planned to file its revised application on April 26. Comments, briefs and responses would be due throughout the summer and fall and the STB would make a final decision on or before Dec. 29. If the board were to approve it, the decision would go into effect on Jan. 28, 2022.
In February, CSX filed its plan to take over PAR with the STB. As part of the deal, Genesee & Wyoming would operate Pan Am Southern — a joint venture between Pan Am and Norfolk Southern — and NS will get trackage rights over CSX’s Boston Line so that it can move double-stack trains to Ayer, Mass. The new G&W line would be called Berkshire & Eastern.
But Vermont Rail System, Vermont Agency of Transportation, MassDOT and others said the deal would result in giving CSX and G&W too much control over the region’s rail system. The STB seemed to agree, noting that even if the G&W were to operate Pan Am Southern west of Ayer, it would still mean CSX would own or partially own two parallel routes across Massachusetts. The deal would also give G&W a fifth railroad in New England.