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Emergency Response Capabilities

The Surface Transportation Board’s Emergency Response Capabilities

The Surface Transportation Board has broad authority under its governing statute to issue emergency service orders to address serious disruptions to rail freight service. Under 49 U.S.C. 11123, the Board can respond quickly to transportation emergencies, acting on its own initiative, or upon request. The Board’s emergency powers can be used in appropriate situations to address serious rail service disruptions whether they result from damage to rail tracks and facilities, from serious congestion of the rail network, or from the inability of a carrier to meet its transportation obligations for whatever reason.

In response to a rail transportation emergency, the Board can direct the handling, routing and distribution of traffic over railroads’ lines; require joint use of railroad facilities; prescribe temporary through routes; or give directions for movement of rail traffic. Any service order is limited by statute to no more than 270 days in duration.

To alert the Board to a rail transportation emergency situation, contact the Board’s Office of Compliance and Consumer Assistance at (202) 245-0279.

To obtain more information or with general questions about the Board’s emergency response capabilities, contact the Board’s Office of Congressional and Public Services at (202) 245-0230.