Slater Commends Decision to Condition Conrail Acquisition on Safety
Thursday, July 23, 1998 (Washington, DC) Slater Commends Decision to Condition Conrail Acquisition on Safety
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today commended the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) decision to adopt his recommendation to condition approval of the Conrail acquisition by the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the CSXT Railroad on the implementation of Safety Integration Plans.
"Safety is the Department of Transportation’s highest priority," said Secretary Slater. "Last February, in our final brief to the STB, we urged that this transaction be approved only if certain safety and service reliability conditions were met. This decision recognizes our interest in seeing the transaction implemented in a safe manner."
Slater also congratulated the STB for requiring a full environmental impact statement to be undertaken to address the range of concerns expressed by various parties to the transaction and supports the STB’s decision to initiate a five year monitoring process to track issues relating to freight service, passenger service, labor agreements, and certain environmental issues.
"The acquisition of Conrail will change the face of east coast rail transportation significantly, and it is therefore critical that we put safety first," said FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris.
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on May 19, 1998, the Department of Transportation and STB recognized that achieving safety is an ongoing process that involves the department and STB. Following the STB’s acceptance of the Department’s suggestion that SIP’s be instituted to assure safety, the FRA developed SIP guidelines for Norfolk Southern and CSXT. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the agency with jurisdiction over rail safety, will monitor, evaluate and review the implementation of these Safety Integration Plans.
The FRA continues to work in partnership with the railroads to ensure that all commitments and deadlines put forth in the SIPs are fulfilled. In any circumstance where an STB action may be required, the FRA will provide information and recommendations to correct any safety deficiencies.
The FRA, in coordination with the STB, plans to undertake a future rulemaking which will require the submission of Safety Integration Plans as part of future rail restructuring proceedings.
While the Department of Transportation supports the expansion of competitive rail service in the eastern United States, it will closely monitor the integration of Conrail into CSXT and Norfolk Southern operations in order to establish a warning system to avoid service difficulties similar to those experienced after the merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. The Department of Transportation continues to be concerned that mitigation measures to address various impacts of the transaction not become threats to safety or potential sources of service disruption.
As a result of the STB’s action, Norfolk Southern and CSXT will each operate about 20,000 miles of rail lines in the eastern U.S., providing balanced, competitive rail service to industries and shippers.
Much of the Conrail realignment was based on private sector agreements involving shippers, labor and municipalities. These negotiated agreements ultimately became conditions of the STB’s approval, and the Department of Transportation applauds the parties for developing out these partnerships.