By Christopher Tidmore
Just over a week ago, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern jointly filed a railroad control application with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to create Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). They describe it as “the only single-line railroad linking the United States, Mexico and Canada,” yet the application remained silent as to whether CP will honor its pre-merger promise to create Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger rail service.
On August 31, 2021, Canadian Pacific beat rival Canadian National to obtain initial STB approval due to antitrust concerns, even though CP’s bid of $31 billion amounted to far less than CN’s offer of $33.6 billion. STB considered that CP and KCS marriage little threat to freight rail competition, as the number five and six largest railroad companies, the smallest of the major firms possessed of track lines that overlapped almost nowhere. However, for Louisiana that CN’s overlap with KCS helped us. The need for CN to divest KCS’ parallel tracks along the Mississippi River with those owned had a very attractive element. Canadian National promised to sell or give this track line (which ran straight from New Orleans to Baton Rouge) to the State of Louisiana—for little cost —to satisfy antitrust concerns.
In other words, the Pelican State stood on the edge of finally obtaining a corridor for exclusive passenger rail service between its two largest cities and their interlinking suburbs, unobstructed by freight trains. Gov. John Bel Edwards and most of the region’s political leadership wrote letters to STB supporting CN’s bid as a result. Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel jumped to defend his company’s bid, amidst the LA political classes’ backing of his rival, by touting “CP’s proven track record of co-operating and operating passenger trains on its network,” in a June 24 letter to Louisiana’s Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson.