White: Commission making progress toward restoring rail

A working group established to develop a capital plan to help restore rail service is making great strides toward it, officials said this week.

Southern Rail Commission Chairman Greg White said Congress passed a Surface Transportation Bill – Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as FAST Act of 2015, to include passenger rail authorization along with highway and transit needs for the first time in U.S. history.

“The Southern Rail Commission has identified the return of passenger service to the Gulf Coast as one of our priorities, along with new service from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, new service between Meridian, Miss., and Dallas-Fort Worth, and a return of service between Birmingham and Mobile,” White said.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

SRC files motion to protect On Time Performance measures

The Southern Rail Commission has moved to defend a recent Surface Transportation Board ruling that On Time Performance, a train line’s rate of punctuality, be measured at all stations on the route.  The SRC and nine passenger advocacy organizations have motioned to intervene in an appeal of that ruling filed by freight railroad companies in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Should the freight railroads’ appeal succeed, On Time Performance would be measured at line end points, leaving no accountability to the users of stops in between.

The Surface Transportation Board acts as an arbiter for disputes between Amtrak and the various freight rail companies. Amtrak’s own intervention on the appeal, in support of the STB rule, has been granted. Other agencies joining the SRC’s intervention include:

  *   All Aboard Indiana

  *   All Aboard Ohio

  *   All Aboard Wisconsin

  *   ELPC

  *   Friends of the Cardinal

  *   Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, Inc.

  *   Midwest High Speed Rail Association

  *   National Association of Railroad Passengers

  *   Virginians for High Speed Rail

SRC and its partners make the case for all-station On Time Performance measurement in their motion found HERE.  A decision on the motion for intervention by the appeals court is pending. Stay tuned for more updates

Lengthened Amtrak platform could handle bicycle tourism, Anniston officials say

Plans are underway to lengthen Anniston’s Amtrak station train platform, and with that comes the potential for passengers to bring along bicycles, Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said Friday.

Greg White, chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, said at a meeting of that body in Anniston on Friday that within a few weeks the federal government will announce whether Anniston will get a grant to help pay for that platform extension.

Stewart said that Amtrak suggested the city extend the platform by 400 feet so that the rail company’s Crescent line can load and unload passengers without moving the train incrementally to do so.  

Even if that extension comes to be, the city will still have to persuade Amtrak to allow passengers to bring their bicycles with them, Stewart said, but Amtrak has expressed an interest in allowing just that. Because the train service runs between New York and New Orleans, local officials envision a broad usage by bicyclists.   

To read more, CLICK HERE

Joint Statement Issued by FRA and Gulf Coast Working Group

Over the last six months, the Gulf Coast Working Group has worked to outline a path that restores passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast. Support to achieve this goal has continued to only grow deeper and stronger. While we have made substantial progress already during our monthly meetings and numerous teleconferences, work remains to be done to determine the exact infrastructure necessary to support daily passenger service along the Gulf. The Working Group is committed to producing a report that provides the most accurate and useful information so we can get passenger trains back on the tracks along the Gulf Coast.

Letters were sent to Senator Wicker, Senator Thune, Senator Nelson, Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Shuster updating them on the status of the report - to read letter, CLICK HERE

ROGER WICKER: Infrastructure work stimulates state’s economic vitality

The future of our communities depends on investments that not only meet current challenges but also anticipate future ones. In traveling across the state over the past month, I have continually seen how Mississippi is looking ahead to create better transportation options, more opportunities for economic growth and a richer quality of life for everyone who calls our state home.

To read more, CLICK HERE

Southern Rail Commission applauds the selection of Charles “Wick” Moorman as the new President and CEO of Amtrak

Longtime head of Norfolk Southern tapped to lead nation’s passenger rail system

In response to the appointment of Charles W. “Wick” Moorman to the position of President of Amtrak, Greg White, Chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, released this statement:

“The Southern Rail Commission is encouraged by today’s appointment of Wick Moorman to serve as President and CEO of Amtrak. His appointment extends a long tradition of presidents with a track record of supporting a national, holistic passenger rail network that includes the booming northeast corridor, state-supported routes and critical long distance service. As the group responsible for the development and expansion of passenger rail in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, the Southern Rail Commission is also proud to see a native Mississippian take the helm of our nations passenger rail system.    

“Though his background is in freight rail as the long-time head of the Norfolk Southern Corporation where he spent nearly his entire career, he is a railroader first who clearly understands the value of providing reliable on-time performance to customers.

“Even during the recession, Moorman led massive capital investments at Norfolk Southern to improve service and expand their business. He has an impressive track record as an innovator when it comes to investing in research and new technology to find ways to move things faster and more efficiently.

“With passenger rail ridership reaching levels not seen in decades and the demand growing for new and expanded service in untapped markets, we welcome Moorman’s commitment to rail capital investments and his track record of working in good faith with Amtrak to provide quality service to riders.

“On behalf of my fellow commissioners at the Southern Rail Commission, we are eager to work with Mr. Moorman to bring new passenger rail service to the deep south and restore critical passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast, connecting millions of people in those communities — and tourists from beyond — with another valuable, efficient, affordable option for traveling to, from and along the Gulf Coast.”

Mobile joins coalition to support restoring passenger rail service to Gulf Coast

The City of Mobile is the latest municipality to join a coalition of cities across the Gulf Coast that support the restoration of a passenger rail service extending from New Orleans to Orlando.

“A Gulf Coast passenger rail service will facilitate job creation, enhance tourism and reduce environmental and roadway impacts,” Mayor Stimpson said. “This service will not only connect cities across the Gulf Coast, but will also link Mobile to the Midwest, West Coast and across the nation. It will benefit all of our citizens, but especially those with limited transportation options or physical challenges.”

To read more, CLICK HERE

Passenger rail between New Orleans and Orlando being studied

Efforts are ongoing to bring back passenger rail between New Orleans and Orlando, a route that never returned after Hurricane Katrina.

On Wednesday (June 22), the Jefferson Parish Council approved a resolution that would show support for re-establishing the line -- one of many local governments along the route that have weighed in. The Amtrak line would in some ways be an extension of a line currently running from Chicago to New Orleans, though it would pick up additional crews and equipment when it stops in New Orleans, said John Spain, vice chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, who is based in Baton Rouge.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Official Statement by Southern Rail Commission

The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) issues this statement to correct recent misleading and erroneous information reported by a few media outlets that have circulated regarding Corridor Capital, which has been falsely described as a “passenger rail operator.”

Recent news reports about a passenger rail provider locating in Montgomery, Alabama and starting multiple passenger services across the state have created serious concern among members of the Southern Rail Commission, and those who are advancing the efforts of passenger rail.  These reports imply that the Southern Rail Commission was the source for information presented in these reports, and implied that the SRC is a supporter of these efforts.  These reports were erroneous and misleading, and do not represent the official position of the Southern Rail Commission. The SRC does not currently have any business with Corridor Capital, nor pending business.

In fact, the SRC had one ten-minute presentation at a public meeting last year from Corridor Capital. No action was taken following their presentation, nor is any action expected.  The SRC had no conversations or negotiations with them prior to, nor since, that time.  In fact, in direct contradiction of comments made in the recent press stories about Corridor Capital “having existing operations for many years” in the Midwest and Northeast, their representative stated at the SRC meeting that they “do not operate any train services at this time.” 

The SRC has enjoyed a strong partnership with Amtrak, who has shown record ridership in recent years and demonstrated increasing revenue.  Our freight rail partners have indicated that they have had no conversations with Corridor Capital.  Local and state elected officials have denied having more than a cursory conversation with Corridor Capital, and they have had no negotiations.  Thus, the suggestion that Corridor Capital can operate passenger service within the next 18 months is suspect, at best.

While the SRC is very supportive of enhanced and improved passenger rail service from potential providers, we are committed to openness, honesty and accuracy, and we want to balance public expectations by providing reasonable timeframes for progress backed by data, analysis and studies. Our state and national leaders expect nothing less from us, and it is our goal to deliver that on behalf of our states.

The SRC has worked diligently over the past couple of years with our industry partners, including Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and other freight railroads, along with the Federal Railroad Administration, with our Congressional delegations, and with state and local government and business leaders, to position our region for the return of passenger rail service – first along the Gulf Coast, and then for the return or development of other inter-city rail services.

We cannot overstate how vital each of these partners are to our efforts.  The great working relationships that are being developed – and the strong grassroots support that is growing– provide our region with the best opportunity we have had in many years to see expanded passenger rail service become reality.

The SRC has an established protocol for public comments and the contact authorized to speak on behalf of the SRC is Greg White, Chair. Send inquiries to info@cpex.org.