Amtrak says contract dispute with MBTA could threaten rail service to Boston

A dispute over whether Massachusetts should pay Amtrak $29 million for Acela service over tracks the state owns got ugly this week when the national railroad filed a court document suggesting it might have to stop service north of Providence rather than continuing to deal with the "chronically delinquent" MBTA.

Amtrak made the suggestion in a counterclaim it filed over what it said were $175,000 in bills for Northeast Corridor station and track work in Massachusetts that the T was refusing to pay.

Amtrak and the T have long had a cost-sharing arrangement for the Northeast Corridor tracks between Rhode Island and South Station, which are owned by the state: The MBTA would pay for track repairs and maintenance while Amtrak would get to handle train dispatching on the line.

But a commission consisting of Northeast Corridor states and Amtrak last year voted to order Massachusetts to start paying for Amtrak service, as is done in other states - even though the other states don't own their tracks.

In January, the MBTA sued Amtrak in federal court in Boston to block imposition of the $29-million fee.

A judge agreed to delay any action until at least this week to try to let the two sides work out an agreement, but those talks failed.

This week Amtrak filed two responses to the suit: It said federal railroad law requires the T to appeal to a federal railroad board before going to court and asked a judge to dismiss the T suit.

More ominously for Amtrak riders, however, the railroad filed a counterclaim in which it said it might have to stop running trains north of Providence unless the T agrees to make payments

The counterclaim was over a total of $175,000 in bills for projects over several years along the corridor that involved work by Amtrak, which it says the T is now refusing to pay for:

MBTA’s refusal to honor its contractual payment obligations has resulted in financial harm to Amtrak, which could potentially jeopardize Amtrak’s ability to provide rail service in Massachusetts. Amtrak depends on timely payments from MBTA for services rendered to ensure its financial stability, fund its operations, and provide service to rail customers traveling to and from Massachusetts. No business partner should have to wait over five years to receive payment on a valid, authorized, and undisputed invoice that is contractually required to be paid within 30 days. Nor can a service provider be expected to continue to do business with a chronically delinquent business partner who refuses to pay its bills indefinitely, thereby effectively subsidizing the business partner with free service while jeopardizing its own financial health. Having exhausted its numerous efforts to secure payment, Amtrak is now left with no choice but to seek a remedy for MBTA’s breach of the [cost-sharing agreement] in this action.

Neighborhoods: 

Topics: 

Free tagging: 

Ad:

Comments

I do not understand why the

By on

I do not understand why the state should pay, the riders already do. MA ridership is a major party to the viability and profitability of the NEC.

Amtrak is profitable in this region (as it should be), pass the costs along to the riders, we (or our workplaces) will gladly pay it.

My point is particularly in the context of the NEC subsidizing other regions and modes of transit for Amtrak that are a joke. MA should not be subsidizing the overnight train from NYC-Miami or any of the other preposterous routes/services run by Amtrak.

up
Voting closed 0

the existing deal makes no

By on

the existing deal makes no sense and now Amtrak is doubling down.

The T owns the tracks, pays to maintain the tracks, lets Amtrak use the tracks for free, AND allows Amtrak to be in control of dispatch (which causes delays to the commuter rail).

and now Amtrak wants the T to pay them as well? for what? They already get everything for free and has control of scheduling.

up
Voting closed 0

Actually, per the Attleboro

By on

Actually, per the Attleboro Line Agreement, Amtrak maintains the tracks, signals, catenary, etc. Then they bill the cost of work that's just related to the commuter rail to the T, which is the issue at stake in their counter-claim - the T's failure to pay these bills.

up
Voting closed 0

Amtrak is bluffing

By on

The NEC is Amtrak's most profitable route, and Boston is the 6th busiest Amtrak Station in the country. Seems to me at this is a pretty obvious bluff in the negotiations, as Amtrak has a whole lot more to lose if they embargo service to Boston - I hope the state calls their bluff.

up
Voting closed 0

Yeah, that seems like a crazy

By on

Yeah, that seems like a crazy move! "You MBTA fools! We'll stop selling tickets to one of our major destinations and make even less money! Who's laughing now!"

up
Voting closed 0

"thereby effectively

By on

"thereby effectively subsidizing the business partner with free service"

How does Amtrak provide free service? If I wanted to take the train to New York, it would cost $99 this afternoon, or $124 tomorrow afternoon.

up
Voting closed 0

Amtrak depends on timely

By on

Amtrak depends on timely payments from MBTA for services rendered to ensure its financial stability, fund its operations,...

What a load of BS. This is Amtrak. They've never made a profit in their entire existence and they depend on federal handouts to maintain financial stability and fund their operations.

up
Voting closed 0

Read this analysis

By on

You might want to read this

http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df4/df02222016.shtml#MBTA

Author is an attorney but offered this review from the perspective if being a rail advocate and user of trains.

This explains what the issue is, and the conflicts between an existing contract, and recent federal legislation that places the two in conflict.

In essence, as someone considered here, this is a situation of the landlord paying the tenant to stay in an apartment.

up
Voting closed 0