UPDATE: Amtrak streamed an empty rail line in latest Mardi Gras Express conflict

UPDATE: Amtrak streamed an empty rail line in latest Mardi Gras Express conflict 1

The Mardi Gras Express was supposed to be up and running earlier this year, but has been delayed due to push back from freight companies who claim it would place unnecessary strain on the already stressed supply line. Read on to see Amtrak’s most recent response to the ongoing conflict.

Let’s recap

In March of 2021, Amtrak announced plans for a passenger freight line that would run from New Orleans to Mobile and back twice daily, with stops in Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis.

Originally, the Mardi Gras Express was supposed to roll out of the station on the first of the year. This has been delayed several times due to opposition from the company that currently runs the rail line, CSX Transportation.

“An RTC [Rail Traffic Control] study was completed last year and showed significant impairment to freight service if no infrastructure improvements are made. Yet Amtrak proposes to begin this service without implementing those improvements.“

Jim Foote, CEO & President of CSX Transportation, in an email to customers. Via Trains.com

According to CSX Transportation, the infrastructure of the lines cannot handle commercial services and freight services, since freight trains would have to yield to passenger trains about four times a day. Amtrak had an interesting response: a Twitch live-stream.

The twitch stream

Amtrak set up a live-stream on Twitch, a website typically used for live-streaming video games, that showed a section of railroad track in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Barring a few technical difficulties, the live-stream ran from 8AM-5PM, showing a grand total of four trains passing by. For most of the nine hours, the train tracks were empty. The entire stream is no longer available, but you can view highlights on Amtrak’s Twitch page.

In a response to Insider, CSX Transportation noted that Amtrak’s live-stream only focused on one point of the rail line, and not a very busy one at that. They claimed that between New Orleans and Mobile (not just the Bay St. Louis stop), at least eight trains run per day, making Amtrak’s video misleading regarding the business of CSX railways along the proposed Mardi Gras Express route.

This very public conflict has many people weighing in on social media. Transportation for America on posted a time lapse video to Twitter, showing yet again, a rather empty railway with just a few trains passing through.

CSX maintains that studying just one point along a railway is a poor way to study railroad business.

What’s next?

Who will win the battle of the Mardi Gras Express? (Nathan Watson / The Bama Buzz)

Currently, the Surface Transportation Board is holding an evidentiary hearing with Amtrak and CSX, which began earlier this month and could run well into next month. These hearings are held via Zoom and can be viewed on YouTube. We’re following this closely for updates and will update this as more information comes out.

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Liv George
Liv George
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