Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 6:09 pm

CN Screws Amtrak, Illinois

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Everything was in place for expanded Amtrak service in Illinois, with additional trains running to Carbondale, St. Louis and Quincy. Ridership was rising, state funding was doubled for the expansion, and deals were negotiated with the host freight railroads. Service was to begin next Monday.

Then Canadian National, which took over the Illinois Central in 1999, changed its mind at the last minute. Citing track capacity issues, CN told Amtrak last Friday it could only allow one extra round-trip on the Carbondale and Joliet-St. Louis routes, and for only one year. Illinois’s congressional delegation is hopping mad at CN and may haul them into Washington next month; Amtrak, for its part, is seeking an emergency order to enforce the existing agreement.

This has the potential to be yet another public relations disaster for CN (which had plenty of them last year in Canada thanks to its constant derailments in Alberta and British Columbia). Federally regulated companies should try to avoid pissing off federal regulators.

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