Thursday, August 3, 1967
Robison Says E-L To Drop Remaining 4 Passenger Trains
WASHINGTON - The Erie-Lackawanna’s four remaining Southern Tier passenger trains will soon be dropped like the “Phoebe Snow,” Rep. Howard W. Robison warned Wednesday.
The Owego Republican used the abandonment of the Phoebe Snow to point up a plea for halting the national decline in rail passenger service. Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on surface transportation, he supported a bill that would call a halt to the abandonment of passenger trains nationwide until the secretary of transportation could investigate to see what could be done about it.
Robison recalled that the Interstate Commerce Commission last year had permitted the E-L to discontinue the Phoebe Snow, “despite that strong and, I believe, overwhelming evidence by the affected communities and the State of New York that ‘public convenience and necessity’ pointed in the other direction.”
As a result, said Robison, “the area of New York I represented is now practically without ‘through’ passenger train service.” The train ran between Hoboken, N.J. and Chicago.
The disappearance epitomized “the same sad pattern many of us have become familiar with as our nation’s railroads have steadily whittled away at their passenger train service,” he said. It “has come to seem almost a deliberate policy on their part to rid themselves” of passenger trains, he added.
He conceded that there are “competitive financial factors” which “make it seem like ‘good business’ but I submit that the public’s business, and the public interest need to be better considered in these matters than it is.”
He told the committee that the four daily passenger trains that now serve Binghamton operate either in the late light night or early morning hours “and they are ’t very good trains, anyway.” Robison was referring to Trains 5 and 6, New York to Chicago, and Trains 10 and 5, Buffalo to New York.
These “obviously are not going to be very popular with the public, he said, “and so, soon, the cycle will repeat itself. The road will show it isn’t making any money operating them and they, too, will go the the way of the ‘Phoebe Snow.’”
He told the committee that the E-L continues to advertise passenger trains and to stress “attractive family fares.” “But I’d hate to get my family up for such hours…”
He acknowledged that “a substantial portion” of blame for the railroad’s competitive troubles can be laid to the federal government and Congress.
“Those disadvantages have been magnified of late by what appears also to be a deliberate policy on the part of our Post Office department’s Bureau of Transportation to divert more and more mail service way from the railroads toward other carriers,” he said.