November 23, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

The Southern Rail Commission has announced that an agreement has been brokered between Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, CSX and the Alabama State Port Authority to allow for two daily round trips a day between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

The long sought after path to run passenger trains comes after months of negotiations through the Surface Transportation Board that will allow freight and passenger service to coexist in the 120 mile corridor. 

A statement from the Southern Rail Commission indicated that "this settlement indicates a bright future for passenger rail service not only along the Gulf Coast, but throughout the southern United States. Collaboration and effective negotiations between passenger rail providers, the freight rail industry, and our local, state, and federal government agencies proves that there is a path forward for re-establishing and expanding passenger rail service."

Knox Ross, Chair of the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) stated, “I’m incredibly delighted by this settlement agreement, and we will continue to build on this momentum by working with all involved parties – especially the communities who have been waiting so long for passenger rail – to prepare for service to start.”

The negotiating parties requested for the case to be held in abeyance with the Surface Transportation Board while executing the conditions identified within the settlement agreement. The parties are not able to provide further comment on the terms of the agreement at this time.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R), Mississippi, said in a statement “now, more than 17 years after Katrina, I am pleased to have a commitment from all parties involved that Amtrak trains will return. This decision demonstrates what I have long believed — that freight and passenger rail can thrive together.”

Senator Wicker added "I commend the leadership of Amtrak, the host railroads, and the Port of Mobile for their diligent work to reach this resolution. I would also like to express appreciation to the Southern Rail Commission. They have commissioned reports, participated in working groups, performed studies, and devoted thousands of hours to this effort. I will continue to support them as they work to implement this agreement and shift to overseeing the restored passenger service."

The SRC will hold a meeting in Mobile on December 9 where it's hoped more details on the restored service can be announced. Guf Coast service was suspended in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina wrecked havoc on the railroad along the coast. The line was rebuilt within months but passenger service, which entended at that time from New Orleans to Miami, was never restored.

This means that Amtrak passengers on the "I-10" corridor through Texas would be able to connect through New Orleans to four likely stops in coastal Mississippi, opening up more travel choices by rail.

"Texas Rail Advocates has been very supportive of service restoration along the Gulf Coast Corridor and pleased to see that all parties are able to come to an agreement that will benefit tourism and business travel," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "TRA is looking forward to seeing future service extended back to Florida, re-opening the Southern corridor that was cut off over 15 years ago. We also look forward to working with the Southern Rail Commission and all parties in re-establishing passenger rail service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Atlanta."

The two daily trains, with daytime service condusive to business and tourism needs, will make stops in New Orleans, Louisiana; Pascagoula, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis in Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama. 

Photo credit: Southern Rail Commission