APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA.
Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Fortas
MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 3 (4) of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended, 54 Stat. 902, 49 U. S. C. § 3 (4) (1964 ed.), commands that "All carriers subject to the provisions of this chapter . . . shall not discriminate in their rates, fares, and charges between connecting lines . . . ."*fn1 The meaning of the term "connecting lines" is the crucial question in this controversy between the Western Pacific Railroad Company, on the one hand, and the Union Pacific Railroad Company and the Northern Pacific Railway Company, on the other. Western Pacific contends that it is a "connecting line" in relation to these carriers and that, therefore, it is entitled to invoke against them the provisions of § 3 (4) prohibiting discriminatory
rates. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the District Court held otherwise.
Western Pacific filed a complaint with the Commission, alleging, in part, that Union Pacific and Northern Pacific practice rate discrimination against it.*fn2 The alleged discrimination consists in the refusal of these carriers, except with respect to a few commodities, to enter into joint through rates via Portland, Oregon, with the route of which Western Pacific is part, although they maintain a full line of such rates with a competitor, the Southern Pacific Company. The hearing examiner found in favor of Western Pacific, but Division 2 of the Commission reversed. The Division found both that Western Pacific could not invoke the provisions of § 3 (4) because it was not a "connecting line," and that, even if it were, the evidence did not establish the "similarity of circumstances and conditions" that would compel rate treatment equal to that accorded to Southern Pacific.
The Division refused to accord Western Pacific "connecting line" status on the ground that it neither physically connects with the allegedly discriminating carriers at the point of discrimination, nor participates in existing through routes with them through that point. Western Pacific R. Co. v. Camas Prairie R. Co., 316 I. C. C. 795. When the full Commission denied further hearing, Western Pacific brought this action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to set aside the Commission's order. The three-judge court dismissed the complaint solely on the ground that Western Pacific was not a "connecting line." Western Pacific R. Co. v. United States, 230 F.Supp. 852. It agreed with the Commission's limited definition of the term and said, "Any further liberalization of the present definition will have to come from the Supreme Court." Id., at 855. We noted probable jurisdiction. 379 U.S. 956.
Analysis of "connecting line" status in this case is closely tied to the geographical, structural, and economic relationships among the railroads involved. Union Pacific, Northern Pacific and their short-line connections provide exclusive rail service between many points in the Pacific Northwest and Portland, Oregon. From Portland, the two competitive routes in question descend, at times parallel, at times intertwined, to Southern California. The route closest to the seacoast consists largely of Southern Pacific. To the east of this route lies the so-called Bieber route whose completion in 1931 was authorized by the Commission to provide competition with Southern Pacific.*fn3 The Bieber route is composed of the end-to-end connections of three different companies: the Great Northern Railway from Portland to
Bieber, California; the Western Pacific from Bieber to Stockton; and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe from Stockton to Southern California. Thus the Bieber route and Southern Pacific both connect with the allegedly discriminating carriers at Portland where facilities for the interchange of traffic exist.
The Bieber route carriers presently enjoy joint through rates among themselves. Moreover, the other two participants in that route have expressed willingness to join with Western Pacific in the joint rates it seeks with Union Pacific and Northern Pacific. Union Pacific and Northern Pacific, for over 50 years, have maintained through routes and a full line of joint rates with Southern Pacific via Portland. They have refused, however, except for a few commodities, to offer through routes and joint rates on traffic moving on the Bieber route through Portland. The joint rates established with Southern Pacific are lower than the combination of local rates that would otherwise apply. Since the Bieber route carriers can offer joint rates only with respect to a few commodities, they cannot match the lower rates offered by Southern Pacific to shippers of most commodities between points in California and points in the Pacific Northwest exclusively served by Union Pacific and Northern Pacific via Portland.
The Commission and the District Court held, however, that even under these circumstances, Western Pacific is not a "connecting line" eligible to complain of the alleged discrimination. In argument here the Commission and the appellee railroads contend that to qualify for that status Western Pacific must show more than that it participates in an established through route that connects with Union Pacific and Northern Pacific, and that all the participants in the route stand willing to cooperate with these carriers in establishing joint through
rates.*fn4 We are urged to hold that to qualify under § 3 (4) as a complainant "connecting line" a railroad must either itself make a direct connection with the discriminating carrier, or be part of a through route that already ...