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(Source: Press release from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, May 12, 2022)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, by Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), during the May 12 hearing titled, “Board Member Views on Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization.”

Chairman DeFazio said in part: “I urge the STB to incentivize the railroads to act like railroads, and not Wall Steet cash cows. Stock buy backs and dividends cannot be the sole measures of success for freight railroads. The ability for Wall Street to extract massive capital out of the railroads will undermine the U.S. freight rail network. They are the only mode with continued decline in freight rail volume, a sure sign that the industry is unhealthy. Congress cannot sit idle and ignore the current problems with the freight railroads. They are too important of an asset for our national economy.  The rail system is broken, and it needs fixing.  We need you to fix it, or we will.”

Chairman Payne Jr. said in part: “Recently, the STB held two days of emergency public testimony on the meltdown of our nation’s freight rail operations. Chemical shippers are enduring 78 percent longer transit times and service days have been cut nearly in half. Agriculture producers such as soybeans and rice have seen a particularly sharp decline in the quality of freight rail service. The National Grain and Feed Association recently wrote to this subcommittee explaining that, and I quote, ‘the current inability of several Class One carriers to provide reliable rail service to their customers is impacting farmgate commodity prices and elevating food prices for customers.’ Increasing prices for our food, gas prices at the pump, turning on our lights, having safe drinking water — these are all impacted by increasing delays in freight rail service. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable. What is maddening, is that the very workforce shortage contributing to the decline in service is a result of the Class Is implementing precision scheduled railroading, or PSR.”

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