Jan. 06--The Fillmore & Western Railway will ask a judge Tuesday to temporarily reverse the Ventura County Transportation Commission's termination of its lease to use the Santa Paula Branch Line.
The railroad sued the commission in November, alleging breach of contract. The Heritage Valley tourist attraction says the agency did not state a valid cause to break the lease, which was negotiated in 2001 to expire in 2021.
The commission, however, says it had good cause to end the agreement Dec. 1. It says it did so primarily because the railway failed to fulfill its maintenance obligations for the line, which the agency has owned since 1995.
Fillmore & Western's attorney, Donna Standard, counters that the commission expects the railway to do more line maintenance than what the lease requires.
Despite terminating the lease, the commission let the railroad run its popular, family-oriented Christmas trains through December. The agency said it would take no further action against Fillmore & Western before Tuesday's hearing in Ventura County Superior Court.
The 32-mile branch line that extends from Ventura to the Los Angeles County line east of Piru has lost several million dollars in the past decade, according to the commission.
The commission says it canceled the railway's lease but hopes to negotiate a new one, in an effort to make the corridor profitable. Fillmore & Western alleges that the line's financial problems have been caused by the commission's mismanagement.
If the railway cannot use the corridor, it will likely go out of business, Standard says.
At Tuesday's hearing, Fillmore & Western will ask Judge Tari Cody to issue a preliminary injunction that will let it temporarily continue using the line while the case is litigated. The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in Courtroom 21, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura.
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