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ATK-98-91 MAY 29, 1998
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National Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: 202-906-3857
Fax: 202-906-3864; 906-3865

MAY 29, 1998
Clifford Black (202) 906-3860
Marc Magliari (312) 655-1338

Decision Upholds Historic Role of Passenger Trains Carrying Express Shipments

WASHINGTON -- Amtrak officials today are praising a ruling by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) that affirms the right of Amtrak to continue to handle carload and trailerload-sized shipments of express on its scheduled passenger trains.

“Over the last three years, Amtrak has worked hard to develop other revenue-generating businesses to support passenger rail services. Development of the express business will help Amtrak further improve its bottom line and support a national passenger railroad system,” said George D. Warrington, acting president and CEO of Amtrak. “The STB’s decision allows us to continue to steadily grow the express business consistent with the manner in which we have built our mail business and the way that other private businesses achieve growth.”

“Amtrak is commited to growing its express business by working in partnership with the country’s freight railroads and by demonstrating to shippers that we can provide reliable, competitive service,” added Warrington.

The STB’s ruling came in a proceeding between Amtrak and the Union Pacific Railroad (UP), in which the principal issue was the definition of “express.” The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, the law that created Amtrak, authorizes the rail passenger corporation to carry mail and express on its passenger trains, and directs Amtrak to “take such actions as may be necessary to increase its revenues from the carriage of mail and express.” However, the Act does not define the term “express.”

UP asked the STB to find that “express” was limited to small shipments, and in addition to impose various regulatory constraints on the type and quantity of express shipments that Amtrak could carry on its passenger trains. Amtrak argued that Congress intended “express” to encompass all shipments, regardless of size, that required expedited service and was transported at premium rates.

Amtrak also argued that the Interstate Commerce Commission, the STB’s predecessor, had consistently rejected arguments that “express” was limited to small shipments, and that UP and other railroads had themselves handled large numbers of carload express shipments on their own passenger trains prior to the formation of Amtrak.

The STB agreed with Amtrak. It found that, “‘express’ need not be restricted by commodity, shipment size, type of equipment, or a variety of other operational factors . . . [rather that it]. . . should be defined more flexibly as a premium transportation service at premium rates -- expedited, regularly scheduled train service provided at prices which are generally higher than freight service -- that is provided as an adjunct to Amtrak’s passenger service.” The STB determined that Amtrak express service was consistent with this definition.

“Passenger service is our core business and will continue to be Amtrak’s primary focus,” Warrington said. “Historically, revenues to support passenger train service have come from both passenger fares and from mail and express carried on passenger trains. The STB’s decision allows us to continue that practice, as Congress intended.”

As late as 1959, mail and express revenue accounted for 46% of total intercity passenger train revenue. The Railway Express Agency, a private corporation owned by the major railroads, provided express service for both carload and small package shipments on passenger trains operating throughout the United States.

Created by the federal government in 1970 to take over the rail passenger operations of the private railroads, Amtrak today serves more than 20 million customers annually on its national network of intercity trains and employs 23,000 people. Amtrak trains and connecting Thruway Motorcoaches serve more than 500 communities in 45 states. An additional 48 million customers use commuter service operated by Amtrak under contract for regional transportation authorities.