Amtrak and Michigan Central Railway Reach Agreement to Support Michigan Passenger Rail Service

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Amtrak and Michigan Central Railway have reached an agreement concerning maintenance and investment levels on the rail lines between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo, Mich., which are currently used for passenger rail operations.

As a result of this agreement, Amtrak will support Michigan Central’s request for regulatory approval of the transaction now pending before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that would grant Michigan Central control over those lines.

“When the Michigan Central transaction was announced in July, a number of constituencies expressed concern regarding the impact on passenger rail service in southern Michigan,” said Paul Vilter, Amtrak’s Assistant Vice President, Host Railroads. “With this agreement in place, Amtrak service on Michigan Central east of Kalamazoo will not only be protected, we anticipate opportunities for growth and improvement. Accordingly, Amtrak supports the Michigan Central transaction.”

“When the joint venture affecting Norfolk Southern lines was announced this summer, we were concerned that this important freight rail line and Amtrak’s Wolverine Service might be adversely affected. But what we have seen instead is a commitment by Michigan Central to work on the issues of safety, and track maintenance,” said Kirk T. Steudle, director, Michigan Department of Transportation. “We are pleased that Amtrak is satisfied with a strong promise by Michigan Central that conditions along the corridor will be preserved, and even better, could be enhanced with future investment.”

“When we began discussing the creation of the Michigan Central, we recognized early on that satisfactorily addressing the concerns of Amtrak and its supporters would be critical to the success of the joint venture,” said David Eyermann, interim president of the Michigan Central. “We look forward to working with Amtrak to identify opportunities to enhance passenger and freight rail service in southern Michigan, based on strengthening the physical condition of the rail line and the On-Time Performance of Amtrak trains.”

On July 12, 2007, Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Watco Companies, Inc. announced that the companies were establishing the Michigan Central, a joint venture headquartered in Kalamazoo to preserve and grow freight service on rail line segments between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo; between Jackson and Lansing; and between Grand Rapids and Elkhart, Ind. The Michigan Central also will acquire Norfolk Southern’s trackage rights on the Amtrak-owned line between Kalamazoo and the Michigan/Indiana state line.

Subject to regulatory approval by the STB, the Michigan Central expects to begin operations in first quarter 2008 and will employ approximately 118 people.

— Special to News Wire