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IN RE PENN CENT. TRANSP. CO.

April 30, 1971

In re PENN CENTRAL TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Debtor. In re Discontinuance of INTERCITY PASSENGER SERVICE


The opinion of the court was delivered by: FULLAM

The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, P.L. 91-518, 45 U.S.C. § 501 et seq. (hereinafter referred to as 'Amtrak Statute') directly affects only 'intercity rail passenger service', defined therein (Section 102(5)) as follows:

"Intercity rail passenger service' means all rail passenger service other than (A) commuter and other shorthaul service in metropolitan and suburban areas, usually characterized by reduced fare, multiple ride and commutation tickets, and by morning and evening peak period operations; and (B) (auto-ferry service pursuant to existing contracts).'

 Railroads which have entered into contracts with Amtrak pursuant to the Statute are relieved of their entire responsibility for intercity rail passenger service from and after May 1, 1971. Section 401(a)(1) of the Act provides in relevant part:

 'Upon its entering into a valid contract (including protective arrangements for employees), the railroad shall be relieved of all its responsibilities as a common carrier of passengers by rail in intercity rail passenger service under part I of the Interstate Commerce Act or any State or other law relating to the provisions of intercity passenger service; Provided, that any railroad discontinuing a train hereunder must give notice in accordance with the notice procedures contained in section 13a(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act.'

 In accordance with Order No. 238 herein, the Debtor has entered into a contract with Amtrak under the Statute. At an earlier stage, before this contract was executed, various interested parties and groups became apprehensive that the Debtor contemplated discontinuing some intercity trains even in the absence of such a contract, in violation of the Amtrak Statute. Litigation in other courts was commenced. Ultimately, after hearing, I entered Order No. 232, requiring that no such litigation commence or continue except in this Court or with the approval of this Court, and also directing the Trustees to apply to this Court for permission, upon five days' notice, before discontinuing any intercity trains, for whatever reason. Pursuant to this latter requirement, and having now entered into a contract with Amtrak, the Trustees have petitioned for leave to discontinue all intercity passenger service as of May 1, 1971. (Approximately 70% Of the trains affected will be continued in operation by Amtrak under the contract; actual immediate cessation of service is proposed with respect to some 58 trains plus one feeder bus line which runs seven trips per day).

 At the hearing, in various procedural ways, *fn1" the following legal and factual issues have been presented:

 1. Was it proper for the Debtor to send out the 30-day notices required by § 13a(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act in advance of the signing of the Amtrak contract, in anticipation of its approval, so that the discontinuances could become effective on May 1, 1971?

 2. If so, were the notices actually employed adequate?

 3. (With respect to certain of the trains involved) are the trains in question 'intercity' within the meaning of the Amtrak Statute?

 4. What tribunal has jurisdiction to determine disputes as to whether a particular train is properly classified as 'intercity' under the Statute (a) with respect to trains designated for operation by Amtrak, and (b) with respect to trains not included in the Amtrak contract?

 I

 Insofar as presently pertinent, § 13a of the Interstate Commerce Act (49 U.S.C. § 13a) provides:

 '(1) A carrier * * * may * * * file with the Commission, and upon such filing shall mail to the Governor of each State in which such train or ferry is operated, and post in every station, depot or other facility served thereby, notice at least 30 days in advance of any such proposed discontinuance or change. The carrier or carriers filing such notice may discontinue or change any such operation or service pursuant to such notice except as otherwise ordered by the Commission pursuant to this paragraph, the laws or constitution of any State, or the decision or order of, or the pendency of any proceeding before, any court or State authority to the contrary notwithstanding.'

 The Commission has not 'otherwise ordered'; indeed, by reason of the provisions of the Amtrak Statute, there woule seem to be no legal basis upon which it could 'otherwise order.' *fn2" It is clear that the intercity rail service provided by Amtrak is to be in complete substitution for the intercity rail passenger service theretofore supplied by the contracting carrier. The limited jurisdiction ...


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