Members of Congress promise US rail rates reform

15 March 2007 22:11  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A bipartisan congressional group promised on Thursday to reform US railroad law to give service and rate relief to the chemical, agriculture, forestry and electric utility sectors.


Joined by other senators and representatives, Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat-North Dakota) told a press conference that US freight rail service operates “as virtually an unregulated monopoly, resulting in unnecessarily high shipping rates and poor service”.


Dorgan also charged that the US federal agency that is supposed to regulate railroads, the Surface Transportation Board, “is dead from the neck up” and is not doing an adequate job in handling rate disputes and other service issues.


“We need to rejuvenate the US economy with better rail service and fair rail freight rates,” he said.  He said he and others among Democrats and Republicans in both the Senate and House were committed to passing legislation this year to reform the way rail service and rate disputes are handled.


“We will pass this legislation,” Dorgan said.  “I am committed to this process. We need rail service, and there has got to be a better way.”


Legislation still being drafted would, he said, free chemical producers and other high-volume rail freight customers from being “captive shippers”,  meaning rail customers that for all practical purposes are served by only one of the four major US railroads and consequently pay disproportionately higher shipping rates.


Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council, said it is “important, once and for all, for us to balance our relationship with the railroads”.  He said US chemical producers need fair rail rates in order to compete effectively in the global marketplace.


The council is one of more than 3,000 manufacturing, agricultural, forestry and electric utility entities who make up a rail service advocacy group, Consumers United for Rail Equity (Cure).


Senators Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) and David Vitter (Republican-Louisiana) also voiced support for legislative reform of rail service, and both said they were confident Congress can act on the legislation this year despite its busy schedule.

By: Joe Kamalick
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