Amtrak has joined Twitch, the popular site mainly used by video gamers to stream their gaming sessions for their fans to watch. Amtrak isn't playing video games, though. Instead, Amtrak is trying to prove a point in its ongoing battle with freight companies to restart passenger trains between Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans. Service between the cities was halted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
CSX and Norfolk Southern are trying to stop Amtrak from restoring train service between the cities, claiming that it will create "a near-catastrophic meltdown of freight operations" unless significant infrastructure improvements, which could cost upwards of $400 million, are made.
While Amtrak legally has a right to use the tracks and be given priority over freight trains, the companies are claiming an exemption to the law that says passenger trains cannot "impair unreasonably freight transportation."
Amtrak doesn't believe running two round-trip trains per day between Mobile and New Orleans would impact freight traffic at all. To prove their point, Amtrak set up a camera and live-streamed the empty track on its newly created Twitch page.
Throughout the day, Amtrak captured five trains running along the tracks. Amtrak said that proves the tracks can handle the extra trains and accused the two companies of "essentially trying to veto the expansion of passenger service by holding the service hostage to $440 million or more in ransom."
CSX responded to the Twitch stream, accusing Amtrak of misleading the public about how busy the freight tracks are.
"It takes a freight train about 8-10 hours to travel between New Orleans and Mobile," a CSX spokesperson said in a statement. "Focusing on one point of a line that traverses approximately 138 single track miles, major ports, and Interchange points and then purporting that it is indicative of the operational realities of the entire line is grossly misleading. Anyone that understands railroad operations, including Amtrak, would know that."