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Amtrak has come out against Canadian National Railway’s plan to buy Kansas City Southern Railway for $33.6 billion, citing specific concerns about a plan to sell a section of the railroad between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board Monday opposing CN’s plan to put KCS in a voting trust while federal regulators review the merger, Amtrak said efforts to address competitive issues “creates a major new impediment” to restoring passenger rail service between the two cities.
John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and a longtime advocate for passenger rail service, said Amtrak’s statements were part of an aggressive jockeying effort to influence the transportation board.
“CN’s ‘divestiture’ proposal is the equivalent of a homeowner selling their house but reserving the right to continue to live in it,“ Amtrak said in the letter. “It is beyond dispute that the ‘divestiture’ of the KCS Baton Rouge Line that CN expects the Board to accept would be extraordinarily harmful — not only to restoration of intercity passenger rail service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but also with respect to nearly all of the public interest considerations that the Board must weigh.”
Specifically, Amtrak said increasing freight train operations would increase the risk of collisions between automobiles and trains at crossings, boost diesel locomotive emissions and hamper efforts to evacuate New Orleans in the case of an emergency.
If the board decides to allow KCS to go into a voting trust, Amtrak said it is willing to work with stakeholders to “develop a plan for the future of the KCS Baton Rouge Line that benefits rather than harms those who live along the line, and the future Amtrak passengers who will travel over it.“
Monday was the deadline to submit comments about the CN-KCS deal. CN said more than 1,700 rail customers in Canada, Mexico and the United States, rail suppliers, elected officials, unions and local business organizations submitted letters in favor of the deal.
This article first appeared on www.theadvocate.com
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