Passengers Win Critical STB Decisions

Railroad passengers came out ahead in two important regulatory decisions made by the Surface Transportation Board last Thursday, which will affect the reliability of Amtrak service. The proposals introduced a revised definition to passenger train on-time performance and ‘preference’ over freight trains.

A federal law created in 1973 has granted Amtrak preference over freight trains when running on freight owned tracks. In Amtrak’s view this means that freight railroads must always prioritize passenger rail by pulling over freight trains to grant Amtrak preference. The proposed policy statement by the STB would have effectively removed passenger train’s preference by siding with the freight trains view of the law, which is that preference means balancing passenger train needs with that of the freight railroads while prioritizing OTP.

During the public comment period there was an overwhelming response from passenger rail advocates, which included many MHSRA members. Advocates were well equipped due to the hard work the Environmental Law & Policy Center put into drafting a detailed response. These efforts led to the STB decision to withdraw their proposal. The board claimed they were unable to resolve the disagreement and will refine its approach towards preference as specific cases arrive.

The other important decision made last Thursday regarded the measurement of on-time performance. Amtrak has a right to file a complaint if OTP falls below 80% on a given route. The proposal released for public comment only included final destinations when tracking OTP. The final decision released includes intermediate stations as well, and will deem a train on-time if it arrives or departs from a station no more than 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival or departure.

We are thrilled and motivated by these decisions in favor of passenger rail. It goes to show that passenger rail advocates are having their voices heard at the highest levels and that we must continue to be vocal to make significant progress.


Dylan Hayward
Program Manager

STB Decision on Preference

STB Decision on On-Time Performance

Last Week at MHSRA:

We hosted an event with the Executive Vice President of Stadler USA, Stephen Bonina, who spoke about their new railcars, which are the first to meet the FRA’s new alternative crash worthiness standards. These standards allow for lighter rolling stock that are safer, more fuel efficient, and have quicker acceleration/deceleration. Stadler is the first company to build railcars in the US that meet these standards, but it likely won’t be long before other manufacturers are using these standards to stock railcar fleets around the country.

Articles We Enjoyed:

Revenue Rising on Spruced-Up Hoosier State Train
“The Hoosier State passenger train from Indianapolis to Chicago, close to death not long ago, is suddenly on a bit of a roll.”

Decorous French Rail Passengers Put Us to Shame
“Rail travel is wonderful, undoubtedly the best way of getting to, and through, France.”

Alt Transit: High Speed Rail for the Midwest
“Harnish, executive director of the Chicago-based Midwest High Speed Rail Association, envisions a similar high-speed rail network to connect the cities of the Midwest. The network, planned to cover about 1,400 miles in all, would link Chicago to Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, the Twin Cities, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati.”

Amtrak Wins Argument That Passengers Go First and Freight Can Wait
“Amtrak prevailed over freight railroads in a regulatory fight over whether Amtrak’s passenger trains should have the right of way over cargo trains.”

Alstom, Amtrak come to terms on $2.5 Billion Deal
“The contract is expected to create over 750 jobs, including 400 jobs directly at Alstom in Hornell, and an additional 350 or more across New York State at subcontracting companies.”

Upcoming Events:

2016 MHSRA Annual Fall Luncheon

Keynote Speaker: Marco Stegher, Americas Area Manager, Italferr S.p.A.

When:      Friday, September 16, Noon-1:30 PM (Check-in begins at 11:30 AM)

Where:     Maggiano’s Little Italy, 516 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Cost:         Regular Ticket: $55     Student Ticket: $20  Register Here

If you are interested in being a sponsor for the event please call 773-334-6758.

Dylan Hayward
Program Manager
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

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