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  • V&S / A&K TOWNER ABANDONMENT - THEY'RE BACK...
    Posted Friday, June 12 2015 at 1359 h MDT
    V&S/A&K is back, and this time look like they might actually file the correct paperwork to actually abandon the entirety of the Towner Line.

    First, we have a rather angry response from V&S where they adamantly deny having done any removal of rail materials from the western segment of the line. I've read it, and you should, too. It's an interesting case of them being technically correct in legalese while, in my opinion, acting in bad faith to the intent of the law.

    My favourite quote from the response is: In fact, no rail or track materials have been removed from the Western Segment. Attached as Exhibit 1 is the Verified Statement of Mr. Rocky Smith, Vice President of Field Operations for A&K Railroad Materials, Inc., of which V &S is an affiliate. He states unequivocally, "No rail, spikes or tie plates were removed from the right-of-way of the Western Segment."

    This is - in fact - technically correct. However, when you remove 80% of the spikes and rail anchors from the track - even if they're still technically on the right of way - you've effectively damaged the track structure to the point it's no longer a railway. It's just a collection of track materials sitting on the right of way. It completely voids the spirit and intent of the OFA (offer of financial assistance) part of the formal abandonment process, which is intended to preserve the rail network by first offering an abandonment candidate to anyone who may wish to actually operate it.

    The STB itself keys in on this point in their May 7, 2015 decision to stop V&S/A&K's dismantling procedures: "We acknowledge there is agency precedent that indicates that, under some circumstances, a party can remove track and track materials once discontinuance has been granted (as it has been here).[13] But there is also agency precedent that holds that parties should not be permitted to remove track until they have received abandonment authority,[14] or where there is a valid OFA request to preserve rail service.[15] The Complaint thus raises novel, important, and serious questions about the requirements of 10903 and 10904, and about whether V&S has attempted to evade the requirements."

    All said and done, however, V&S/A&K appear intent to get their scrap. At least now, however, they're going through the correct procedures. They've filed notices with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and a number of federal agencies (because the line contains federal land grants) that they intend to file for abandonment of the entire route around July 1, 2015. -
    NDHolmes

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