Happening Now

Amtrak Says Union Pacific Is Thumbing Its Nose At STB Order

April 12, 2024

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

In the throes of its late-trains fight at the Surface Transportation Board against Union Pacific railroad over the Sunset Limited, Amtrak this week formally accused UP of failing to comply with STB’s order last July to preserve records and details around its dispatching decisions.

It’s one of the most important elements of Amtrak’s entire claim against UP, given that dispatching and rationales around individual dispatch decisions are the beating heart of the dispute over chronically late Amtrak trains on UP territory.

Amtrak filed its original complaint in late 2022, claiming that Union Pacific was deliberately engaging in a “pattern and practice” of violating Amtrak’s legal right to preference in dispatching and demanding STB order remedies and damages.

Typically, in legal disputes the court kicks off the case with a “preservation order” requiring that none of the parties dispose of any materials or records that might become relevant as the case unfolds. When STB decided last summer to accept Amtrak's case, the first-ever Section 213 investigation, among the many items STB's order included was a section spelling out the parties’ requirements to preserve documentation – even if, as UP argues, its existing internal recordkeeping rules lead to some documentation being discarded.

“Regardless of the retention periods stated in Part 1220 and regardless of any parties’ ongoing document retention policy or other data destruction practices, parties must preserve such documents, even if they claim those documents or data are protected from discovery by privilege or otherwise,” the Board said in its initial order.

UP has struggled to recover documentation it needs to respond to Amtrak’s discovery requests and to the STB’s own interrogatories, and last month asked STB for more time to work through those tasks because it has proven so difficult. At the same time, UP’s internal policies call for destroying dispatch playback videos after 99 hours and the railroad is arguing that it is under no legal obligation to retain them, despite the STB’s July order.

Amtrak's lengthy motion filed this week can be found by clicking here.

If you want to look at all of the filings in the docket for this case from all the parties, visit this STB link and search under docket NOR 42175.