The Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement of the Interstate Commerce Commission has recommended that the commission force Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Co. to divest itself of two lines.
The Bureau, says Seaboard is engaging in anticompetitive behavior and violating provisions of earlier merger agreements.
The recommendation came in the bureau's comments as part of an ICC investigation in which two of Seaboard's competitors charge that the railroad has hurt their business with unfair practices.
For its part, Seaboard denied the charges, and called the bureau report "absurb."
The two lines in question run from the Ohio River to Chicago and from Jacksonville to Tampa.
Filings from the two competing railroads, Southern Railway and Florida East Coast Railway, and the bureau referred to the terms of earlier mergers in which Seaboard was joined with Atlantic Coastline Railroad and the Louisville & Nashville into what eventually became known as the Southeast Rail Network.
The enforcement bureau report claims that Seaboard, in violation of ICC directives, has hampered access to its rail lines by competitors.
Because of its dominant position in the market, Seaboard has allowed "deterioration of equipment, roadbed and tracks, increase in certain transit times, decrease in car availability, questionable freight solicitation practices, increase in rates and imposition of restrictive tariff provisions," the bureau said.
The bureau specifically charged Seaboard with not providing access to the Jacksonville Gateway, a route between Jacksonville and Tampa, and favoring Family Lines over other competing carriers in granting routes to traffic.
The bureau also said Seaboard has failed to operate the L&N as an independent line, choosing instead to integrate L&N's operations into its own, which has reduced competition with other roads. In 1970, the ICC approved Seaboard's control over the L&N, but ordered that it be run as an independent entity.
Philip Lanier, Seaboard's executive vice president for administration, said in a telephone interview from Jacksonville that the petition filed by enforcement bureau was "basically no different than an earlier request by Southern, which the ICC eventually denied."
"It's a fight that has already been lost twice," he said. "The very idea of trying to break up one of the two major systems of the South is just beyond rationality."