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Rail News: BNSF Railway

STB blesses BNSF's plan to purchase Nebraska Northeastern line


On Oct. 18, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued a decision that allows BNSF Railway Co. to acquire and operate a 120.4-mile line between Ferry Station and O'Neill, Neb., that's owned by Nebraska Northeastern Railway Co., subject to standard employee protective conditions.

BNSF entered into a purchase agreement with Nebraska Northeastern in July through which the Class I would reacquire the line — which formerly was owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad — and recommence common-carrier operations on it.

Purchasing the line from Nebraska Northeastern would strengthen the Class I's agricultural products franchise in the region, BNSF officials said in their STB filing. About 99 percent of the short line's traffic consists of grain or grain products, according to the Class I. Nebraska Northeastern also serves three major ethanol production facilities.

Two shippers transport goods on the line under BNSF's grain-shuttle program, which enables shippers to transport dedicated 110-car unit grain trains between their facilities and the railroad's grain shuttle destination network.

"BNSF asserts that integrating [Nebraska Northeastern's] operation … would produce a seamless operation for shippers, allowing them to take full advantage of BNSF's exclusive destination network for grain and grain products," STB officials wrote in the decision. "BNSF also claims that it would be able to improve service to shippers by removing the Sioux City-area interchange with [Nebraska Northeastern], thereby eliminating interchange costs and any associated delays."

BNSF plans to selectively increase train speeds on the line from 10 mph to 25 mph by replacing older rail. Higher train speeds, along with a plan to originate and terminate all operations on the line out of the Class I's Sioux City yard, would allow traffic on the route to make faster and more efficient connections to BNSF trains in Sioux City, BNSF officials said.

The STB's exemption for the transaction takes effect on Nov. 17. Petitions to stay must be filed by Nov. 2 and petitions to reopen the proceeding must be filed by Nov. 13, according to the STB.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/25/2012