STB Rejects Mediation Request on Gulf Coast Dispute

The decision means that a hearing set for next week between CSX, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak will move forward as planned. Photo Courtesy of Amtrak. 

STB Rejects Mediation Request on Gulf Coast Dispute

By Justin Franz

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board rejected a request by CSX and Norfolk Southern to appoint a mediator to help the two freight railroads sort out their differences with Amtrak regarding the return of passenger service east of New Orleans. The two freight railroads made the request on March 28, just days before a hearing on the matter was set to begin. 

If the STB did appoint a mediator, all sides would have had to accept the compromise that entity came up with.

Amtrak trains have not run east of New Orleans along the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which damaged much of the route. While freight service was restored after the storm passenger service was not. Now, Amtrak wants to run two round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. But the freight railroads have said that shouldn’t happen without major capacity improvements to the line, most of which is owned by CSX. The freight railroads believe Amtrak should pay for those improvements, but Amtrak says such investments are not its responsibility. 

In a decision posted Friday morning, the STB stated that had all sides agreed to mediation earlier, the board might have been warm to the idea. But because the freight railroads waited until now to ask for it — and Amtrak still doesn’t support it — they decided to move forward with the next week’s hearing. 

This article was posted on: April 1, 2022