The Interstate Commerce Commission yesterday fined the Louisville Nashville Railroad Company more than $1 million, charging the Eastern Kentucky road with violating ICC orders to move freight cars in to coal mining and other regions.
The fine comes at a time when the commission has had to cut back on earlier fines for three other railroads it also accused of violating ICC service orders. L & N's fine would have been even larger had the commission not backed off on earlier orders that railroads must move out cars within 24 hours after loading or unloading.
Under new rules, the ICC gave the Railroads 60 hours to turn around cars.
Members of the Kentucky congressional delegation had been in to speak with ICC officials last month to relay the complaints of coal mining companies in Kentucky. The mining operations claimed that the L&N was using cars for more profitable unit trains at the expense of the coal operator, who were facing major financial difficulties because they could not ship the coal they had mined.
But, the ICC said, repeated efforts by that agency to get L&N to move cars faster were not complied with, and the commission finally imposed the fines.
"The claims against L&N are the latest attempt by the ICC to improve rail service to coal mine operators in Harlan and Hazard Counties, Kentucky," the ICC statements announcing the fines said.
And, in a letter to L&N, President Prime Osborn, the ICC warned that "if there is a prolonged or repeated failure to settle those claims," the commission may take the matter to court.
In a related action this week, Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) sent a letter to Osborn saying he had reached "the breaking point" after seeing a series of letters between L&N and its customes, "which I can view in no other light than as an obvious attempt to pit the small-car shippers against the unit-train users.
Fors also accused the L&N executive of misrepresenting "your company's intentions to fulfill service obligations to your Eastern Kentucky customers" during a meeting Osborn had with members of the Kentucky Congressional delegation on June 27.
Ford accused Obsorn of not taking actions promised. "I am tired of words," Ford wrote, "and L&N's well-orchestrated diversionary tactic have worn thin. It is now obvious to me that any solution to his problem does not lie within the perimeters of the free enterprise system."
Ford this week persuaded the Senate Commerce Committee to approve an amendment to the Interstate Commerce Art to strengthen the ICC's ability to force railroads to provide adequate service.