The Interstate Commerce Commission is planning to fine the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) $2.3 million today for failure to respond to federal orders to move freight cars to section's of the country where they were critically needed.
ICC officials also plan to go to court to prevent Conrail from future violations of the same sort.
The ICC last March ordered Conrail to quickly free up freight cars for use by other railroads throughout the country. According to the ICC, Conrail is now tying up about one-third of the freight cars in the entire country.
One ICC official said the actions against Conrail was planned "to show that we are serious about these rail orders, and Conrail can't just ignore them."
The rail industry has about 52,000 new freight cars on back order, and has been expediting car repairs, but the shortages persist.
Rep. Fred B. Rooney (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Commerce, said in a release late yesterday, "A significant flaw in Conrail's operations to date has been its failure to supply freight cars where they are needed in a timely manner. This has resulted in serious financial losses to the shippers and to Conrail. These losses have been a major factor in Conrail's inability to become a profitable rail system."
Rooney noted that despite repeated efforts by the ICC to convince Conrail of the urgency of getting the cars to shippers to meet vital schedules, "this has been one of Conrail's most serious failings."
Rooney quickly added, however, that he did not think this deficiency in operations should be considered a reason for denying Conrall the additional billion of federal funding it has requested.
"I want to see Conrail profitable," he said, "and I am absolutely convinced that it can be."
But, he added, "a way must be found to control the gremlins that are snarling operations. The fact that it has difficulties with car utilization and other operational matters should not be used as an excuse to completely scuttle Conrail . . . the consequences will be far greater than the current car utilization problems."
Conrail has been hit with huge losses in its two years of operations, including the first quarter of 1978, when bad weather and strikes by the coal industry andon the docks have crippled the transportation industrt.