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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Post-Katrina: Class Is slowly make headway in clean-up, repair efforts

Three days after Hurricane Katrina leveled parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Class Is continued to make progress in restoring service, moving re-routed traffic and repairing damaged track.

CSX Transportation is serving shippers immediately outside the impacted areas by rerouting traffic through western gateways, including East St. Louis, Ill., Memphis, Tenn., and Montgomery, Ala., and various TRANSFLO and intermodal facilities.

The railroad is repairing track and several bridges on a 100-mile line between Pascagoula, Miss., and New Orleans that suffered heavy damage.

“Like all companies with operations in the storm area, our primary concern is locating and assisting our approximately 300 employees and beginning the recovery process,” said CSX Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward in a prepared statement. “The physical impact to our rail infrastructure, while significant, is confined to a relatively small segment of our 22,000-mile network.”

Yesterday, Norfolk Southern Railway restored service between Birmingham, Ala., and Mobile, Ala., and Meridian, Miss. The railroad continues to reroute New Orleans traffic in cooperation with other Class Is.

“Efforts are continuing as we repair the damage sustained from Hurricane Katrina to restore our route into the New Orleans area as soon as possible,” NS officials said in a customer alert.

Kansas City Southern is making headway, too. The Class I reopened its Meridian Speedway line between Meridian and Shreveport, La., after clearing hundreds of downed trees and other obstructions.

KCS agreed to allow NS to use the line as a bridge for intermodal traffic between Meridian and Alliance, Texas. KCS officials also are working with representatives from CSXT and the Meridian & Bigbee Railway to divert non-intermodal traffic from New Orleans and Birmingham to Meridian.

“Voluntary bilateral cooperation among Class Is and other carriers to address service outages caused by Hurricane Katrina will result in the quickest restoration of service for shippers,” KCS officials said in a statement.

BNSF Railway Co. officials are working with their counterparts at CSXT and NS to reroute Gulf Coast shipments through East St. Louis, Chicago and Memphis.

Yesterday, BNSF reopened its line between Lafayette, La., and New Orleans after crews repaired a bridge in Morgan City, La., that was struck by floating debris. Crews continue to restore signal systems, and remove trees and other debris along track.

Meanwhile, U.S. port officials have expressed concern for the region, and pledged support for relief efforts and freight usually handled by the Port of New Orleans.

“On behalf of our member ports throughout the Western Hemisphere, we express our deepest concerns and commitment of support and assistance to all persons who have been directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, and to the millions beyond the immediate impacted area who depend on the ports in that region for their livelihoods and quality of life,” said American Association of Port Authorities officials in a statement.

The Ports of Indiana are offering the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor as a potential transshipment point from the north “much like New Orleans does from the south,” officials said in a statement. “The port can handle virtually every type of cargo, including general cargo, grain, bulk, containers and heavy-lift cargoes.”

Officials at the ports of Mount Vernon and Jeffersonville, Ind., also are considering other options to help reroute freight from New Orleans, such as using rail or diverting ships to barge moves via the Intracoastal Waterway to the Mississippi River.

“While the total devastation left in the wake of Katrina is still uncertain, there is no doubt this hurricane will have a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy and freight transportation,” Ports of Indiana officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/2/2005