Gulf Coast latest battleground for Amtrak, train companies

February 17, 2022 GMT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The Gulf Coast has become the latest flashpoint in a clash between Amtrak — and its plans to expand passenger rail service nationwide — and freight train operators that share the rails.

A court hearing this week in Mobile, Alabama, highlights the differences between Amtrak and the freight operators, Al.com reported.

The two-day public hearing explored the possibility of restarting a state-supported passenger rail route between Mobile and New Orleans. The train would make four stops in coastal Mississippi.

Freight operators CSX and Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern, along with the Alabama State Port Authority, oppose the plans.

“This case is far more than … New Orleans to Mobile,” said Jim Foote, president and CEO of Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX. “It’s about a new national agenda and Amtrak’s desire to change the law and create a new road map to impose passenger service without working with the host carriers or local communities to first add capacity.”

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Part of what is at stake is whether Amtrak and its state partners will be able to carry out the direction of the Biden Administration and Congress to significantly expand Amtrak service on the U.S. rail network, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said.

This week’s hearing was hosted by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. The federal regulatory agency is overseeing a legal proceeding to determine whether or how Amtrak can provide passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast for the first time since 2005.