In this case, defendant railroad, pursuant to the provisions of Section 13a(1)
of the Interstate Commerce Act, filed a notice of discontinuance of its passenger trains Nos. 570 and 571 between Buffalo, New York, and Baltimore, Maryland. An investigation was ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission (Commission) and numerous hearings were held. At the conclusion thereof, defendant was directed to continue operation of both trains between Baltimore and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Northern segment, for one year, but was permitted to discontinue operation of these trains between Harrisburg and Buffalo, the Southern segment. Plaintiffs filed this action requesting the Court to enjoin and set aside the Order of the Commission and to order defendant to restore full service of its trains 570 and 571.
Section 13a was enacted by Congress as part of the Transportation Act of 1958. The legislative history of that Act reveals Congress' concern about the financial plight of railroads, attributable in part to the losses sustained in operating passenger trains. To discontinue these trains before the enactment of § 13a, the railroads were required in all cases to seek authority from each of the States served. See 104 Cong.Rec. 10842-10843, 10851. Without concurrence of all the States affected, the railroad might be compelled to continue operations despite serious losses. New Jersey v. New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Co., 372 U.S. 1, 83 S. Ct. 614, 9 L. Ed. 2d 541 (1963). The purpose of Congress in enacting Section 13a(1) was remedial
and this statute gave a railroad the right to discontinue interstate passenger trains by serving a notice and supporting statement on the Commission and by posting notices in the trains and stations involved. In addition, notices and statements were to be served on the Governors and the appropriate regulatory agencies of each State. Within thirty days of notice, the Commission has the authority to enter upon an investigation of such discontinuance or change. If the Commission decides not to investigate, then the railroad may discontinue the trains as of the date designated in the notice. See State of New Jersey v. United States, 168 F. Supp. 324 (D.C.1958), affirmed 359 U.S. 27, 79 S. Ct. 607, 3 L. Ed. 2d 625 (1959). If the Commission decides to investigate the proposed discontinuance, then the Commission may require "* * * such train or ferry to be continued in operation or service, in whole or in part, pending hearing and decision in such investigation, but not for a longer period than four months beyond the date when such discontinuance or change would otherwise have become effective." After the hearing in such investigation has been concluded, the Commission, after appropriate statutory findings are made, may "* * * require the continuance or restoration of operation or service of such train or ferry, in whole or in part, for a period not to exceed one year from the date of such order." Thus, recognizing that under the statute a railroad is free to discontinue the operation or service absent an affirmative order of the Commission, it would appear that Congress intended to confer authority on the Commission to order a partial continuance even though the railroad sought to discontinue the whole run from point of origin to point of termination. This has been the interpretation of the Commission in prior cases,
and such interpretation by the agency charged with the administration of the statute is entitled to great weight. Levinson v. Spector Motor Co., 330 U.S. 649, 67 S. Ct. 931, 91 L. Ed. 1158 (1947). What the Commission did in the case before us was to order the continuance of the operation of the trains between Harrisburg and Baltimore, while, at the same time, allowing the discontinuance of the operation between Harrisburg and Buffalo which, in effect, required continuance "in part" of the operation sought to be discontinued.
The contention that the Commission is restricted to the discontinuance sought in the original notice and cannot order a partial continuance is untenable. This would place the Commission in an administrative straightjacket and would not comport with the statutory purpose. Its effect would be to penalize the railroad for seeking to discontinue more of the operation than the Commission ultimately decided it was proper to do. There is nothing in the statute or legislative history suggesting such a limitation. As was pointed out in People of State of California v. United States, 258 F. Supp. 950, 954 (N.D.Cal.1966), a train discontinuance case under 13a(1):
The remaining points raised by plaintiffs go to the Commission's findings. The function of this Court is limited to ascertaining whether there is warrant in the law and the facts for what the Commission has done. Unless there has been prejudicial departure from requirements of the law or abuse of the Commission's discretion, the reviewing Court is without authority to intervene. United States v. Pierce Auto Freight Lines, 327 U.S. 515, 66 S. Ct. 687, 90 L. ...