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Amtrak livestreamed a seemingly empty railroad to show it is being held hostage by freight train companies

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A screenshot of Amtrak’s Twitch stream.Amtrak/Twitch

  • On Wednesday, Amtrak joined Twitch to stream an empty railroad in Mississippi.

  • The company is fighting to restart passenger service between Mobile and New Orleans.

  • Cargo companies say the service would “unreasonably harm” their operations.

In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, there is a set of railroad tracks used by freight trains. On Wednesday, Amtrak streamed the steel tracks live on Twitch.

Amtrak’s goal was to show how deserted the railroad is.

It’s the company’s latest move in an ongoing fight to restart passenger service between Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana, which came to a halt after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. according to Vice.

CSX and Norfolk Southern are involved in the dispute with Amtrak. Freight train companies say the passenger service’s plan to add four trains, or two return trains, per day to the route without making infrastructure improvements would hurt their operations, such as the reported Roll Call.

According to Twitch, more than 1,300 people listened to Amtrak’s stream titled “CSX’s Very Busy Gulf Coast Corridor.”

“We thought of setting up a live video feed to answer the question people keep asking: how busy is the railway anyway?” an Amtrak spokesperson told Insider.

The spokesperson said that between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Amtrak recorded five trains on CSX tracks. Due to technical difficulties, the live broadcast was interrupted throughout the day, the spokesperson added.

While Norfolk Southern declined to comment, a CSX rep told Insider in a statement that “a freight train takes approximately 8-10 hours to travel between New Orleans and Mobile. Focusing on one point of a line that traverses approximately 138 single-track miles, major ports and interchange points, and then to claim that it is indicative of the operational realities of the entire line is grossly misleading.”

“Anyone who understands railroad operations, including Amtrak, would know that,” the statement continued.

Dispute between Amtrak and freight train companies has been going on for months

Amtrak has the right to access any U.S. rail line under the Passenger Rail Services Act of 1970, according to Roll Call, and passenger trains also have priority over freight traffic, such as the reported Vice. However, Congress has also declared that additional Amtrak trains can only operate so long as they do not “unreasonably interfere with the transportation of goods”.

In a November 2021 joint filing from CSX and Norfolk Southern seen by Insider (and available for download on Railway Age), the freight train companies argued that the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates rail freight, should refuse the proposal of Amtrak to start service on the route.

They argued that Amtrak’s proposed service would “unreasonably interfere” with their existing operations. The companies added that if the board approved Amtrak’s application, it would have to require passenger service to pay and install infrastructure improvements “to avoid a near-catastrophic collapse of freight operations.”

Amtrak livestreamed a seemingly empty railroad to show it is being held hostage by freight train companies

 | Breaking News Updates

A screenshot of one of the Amtrak freight trains broadcast live on Wednesday.Amtrak/Twitch

The filing also included a proposed plan to make improvements to the railroad that the companies said would cost between $405 million and $440 million and add a total of 122,000 feet of track.

The Amtrak spokesperson argued that freight companies are “essentially trying to veto passenger service expansion by holding the service hostage to $440 million or more in ransom.”

The spokesman said he expects the board to take weeks to decide whether Amtrak can operate its passenger service between Mobile and New Orleans.

Read the original Insider article

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