STB now showing the letters

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Everything is out in the open, as it should be. Today (January 8, 2016), the Surface Transportation Board established a page on its website, “Major Railroad Mergers and Consolidations Correspondence,” that contains all the correspondence connected to the proposed merger of Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern. The correspondence is in PDF form and can be downloaded by anyone.
The website page, which can be accessed by CLICKING THIS LINK, states: “The STB is aware of a recent offer by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to merge with Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). A number of stakeholders have submitted correspondence to the STB about this offer, including members of Congress, State and local officials, shippers, and members of the public. At this time, there is no proceeding before the agency related to a merger of CP and NS.”
The correspondence had previously been characterized as “leaked,” which is something that never should have occurred, given long-established and generally accepted STB protocol. If that protocol is followed as it should be—that is, making any and all correspondence a matter of public record—there’s no such thing as a leak (except perhaps in the plumbing at STB headquarters).
I need to give credit where credit is due. That credit goes to our very astute (and a bit cynical—but who can blame him?) Capitol Hill Contributing Editor, Frank Wilner, who just two days ago called out the STB on its apparent lack of transparency in his blog, “Show us the letters, STB.” I don’t think it’s pure coincidence that it took fewer than 48 hours for the STB’s website page to appear with what we (and I’m sure many others) have asked for.
Am I gloating? Well, maybe just a little. Actually, it’s a good feeling to know that this publication, which was established 103 years before I was born, is taken seriously.
For the record, Railway Age takes no public position on the merits of a CP-NS combination—whether we think the merger should take place, or whether it will take place. Our duty is to report the events as they unfold, as accurately and balanced as possible. We commend the STB for following long-established agency protocol and making correspondence related to the proposed merger public, regardless of whether the agency needed to be prodded. As such, we appreciate that correspondence that should have been on the public record to begin with is now “on the record.”
So, download as many of the letters as you care to digest. Transparency rules, as it should. The late, much-revered Linda Morgan, I’m sure, is smiling right now. In many ways, this is her legacy.
As of this posting, there are 17 letters on the STB website page. Of particular interest is a response from the STB to the House Judiciary Committee dated Jan. 7, 2016. Go ahead and download it. It’s on the record.