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Durbin, Colleagues Say Canadian National Railway Must Honor Its Agreements with Amtrak

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Location: Chicago, IL

Durbin, Colleagues Say Canadian National Railway Must Honor Its Agreements with Amtrak

In a letter spearheaded by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), members of the Illinois Congressional delegation today called on Canadian National Railway Company (CN) to honor its agreements with Amtrak. Under the agreement finalized in July and set to go into effect on October 30, 2006, CN would grant Amtrak access along routes that begin in Chicago and end in St. Louis and Carbondale in order to meet growing ridership demand.

"We were notified last week that CN will no longer agree to allow one of the additional roundtrips to St. Louis via Joliet, is threatening to withhold access to the Carbondale route, and may seek to terminate all of the newly added trains in Illinois after just one year. Such an action would violate the agreement between CN and Amtrak," the members wrote in a letter to E. Hunter Harrison, CN's President and Chief Executive Officer.

Due to increased ridership, Illinois doubled its Amtrak operating subsidies from $12 to $24 million to "allow the State to operate two more roundtrip trains on its Chicago to St. Louis route, and one more roundtrip train on its Chicago to Carbondale route… On behalf of the State of Illinois, Amtrak negotiated an agreement with CN along CN's 37 mile portion of the 284 miles on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor and along the whole 310 miles of track from Chicago to Carbondale."

The members concluded, "We hope that CN and Amtrak can resolve this issue before the October 30th start date for new Amtrak service. If this issue is not resolved by then, we request that you meet with us in Washington to discuss this issue the week of November 13th."

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and U.S. Representatives Jerry Costello; Lane Evans; Luis Gutierrez; Don Manzullo; Bobby Rush; Ray LaHood; Jesse Jackson, Jr.; Jerry Weller; Danny Davis; John Shimkus; Judy Biggert; Jan Schakowsky; Tim Johnson; Rahm Emanuel; Melissa Bean; and Dan Lipinski.

The full text of the bipartisan letter to CN is below:

October 24, 2006

E. Hunter Harrison
President and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian National Railway Company
935 de La Gauchetière Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3B 2M9

Dear Mr. Harrison:

We are writing to you regarding Canadian National's apparent decision to violate its agreement with Amtrak to operate additional Amtrak train frequencies in Illinois. Specifically, Canadian National (CN) and Amtrak finalized a series of agreements in July that would grant access to Amtrak along routes that begin in Chicago and end in St. Louis and Carbondale. That service is scheduled to begin October 30th.

In May, due to a double digit percent ridership increase on its intrastate Amtrak routes, the State of Illinois decided to add new trains to its Amtrak routes. The state doubled its Amtrak operating subsidies from $12 to $24 million, which would allow the State to operate two more roundtrip trains on its Chicago to St. Louis route, and one more roundtrip train on its Chicago to Carbondale route.

On behalf of the State of Illinois, Amtrak negotiated an agreement with CN along CN's 37 mile portion of the 284 miles on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor and along the whole 310 miles of track from Chicago to Carbondale. We were notified last week that CN will no longer agree to allow one of the additional roundtrips to St. Louis via Joliet, is threatening to withhold access to the Carbondale route, and may seek to terminate all of the newly added trains in Illinois after just one year. Such an action would violate the agreement between CN and Amtrak.

CN's actions are an affront to Amtrak, the State of Illinois, and the millions of rail passengers across Illinois. Amtrak has hired and trained employees, renovated train equipment, purchased advertising and mounted a series of public events - in some of which your railroad was a participant - supporting the new train frequencies. In addition, since the Carbondale service expansion was announced by the Governor at an event attended by CN on September 25, tickets have gone on sale for the additional frequencies and some trains have already sold out.

Amtrak has been in communication with CN officials since March and had amended its train schedule in order to accommodate CN. Agreements between CN and Amtrak were finalized in July. Therefore, we do not understand why CN has decided to violate its access agreement with Amtrak less than two weeks before the planned launch of the new state-supported roundtrip trains.

We hope that CN and Amtrak can resolve this issue before the October 30th start date for new Amtrak service. If this issue is not resolved by then, we request that you meet with us in Washington to discuss this issue the week of November 13th.

Please have someone from your office contact Senator Durbin's office or Representative Costello's office to let us know if the issue has been resolved or for a time and date to meet with us.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator Barack Obama
U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello
U.S. Rep. Lane Evans
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez
U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush
U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson
U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel
U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski

Cc: Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation Surface Transportation Board


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