Happening Now

Supreme Court Declines Freight Rail’s OTP Legal Challenge

June 3, 2019

Decision is a Major Victory for Rail Passengers

For Immediate Release (19-10)

Contact: Xenophon Strategies - (202) 289-4001

Washington, D.C. - The Rail Passengers Association celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to deny the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) petition for a writ of certiorari. The AAR asked the Supreme Court review the D.C. Court of Appeals’ July 2018 decision that would grant Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) the ability to determine on-time performance metrics and standards for passenger trains.

In a statement, Rail Passengers President and CEO Jim Mathews said:

“This is terrific news for everyone who relies on trains to get to work, to school, to visit friends and family, and it's even more important for our disabled, seniors and veterans for whom trains are a lifeline and late trains are a threat.

“Today’s decision vindicates the position this Association and our coalition partners have taken for years in court filings, briefs and letters to regulators. Now let’s put aside the legal arguments and get down to the important work of protecting the right of the traveling public to be on time.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to let this case end removes the final hurdle to Amtrak and the FRA working together to restore on time performance standards that were vacated by previous rulings. With on time performance today at record lows, American passengers have been waiting for years for the courts to step in, and now the highest court in the land has spoken.”

The practical effect of the Supreme Court's denial of AAR's petition is that the D.C. Appeals Court's 2-1 ruling last summer stands in favor of Amtrak and the FRA, and ends a decade of litigation, briefs, filings, letters, claims and counterclaims between AAR and Amtrak.

Since Amtrak was created in 1971, federal law has required that freight or “host” railroads are to provide Amtrak trains passage on their railroad and give them priority access or “preference” over freight trains. Despite the law, host railroads regularly ignore their obligation.

Poor service from many host railroads has caused chronic and excessive delays for millions of riders who rely on the Amtrak system. In 2018, Amtrak trains were delayed by freight trains on host railroads more than 100,000 times. Interference by freight trains is the most common source of delay for Amtrak passengers and the largest cause of poor on-time performance of Amtrak trains.

More information on On-Time Performance is available at the Rail Passengers website at www.railpassengers.org.

About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.