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Rail News: Intermodal

Cold Train suspends express intermodal service from Washington state


Cold Train last last week announced it suspended its Cold Train Express intermodal service from Quincy, Wash., because of scheduling issues on BNSF Railway Co.’s Northern Corridor.
The issues have been occurring since late last fall due to increased congestion on BNSF's lines as result of surging crude oil and coal traffic on the corridor, Cold Train officials said in a press release. From November 2013 to April 2014, BNSF's on-time performance dropped from an average of over 90 percent to less than 5 percent, they said.

BNSF also reduced intermodal service from Washington state beginning in late April, which caught Cold Train officials and other intermodal customers by surprise since expedited intermodal service from the state was reduced to only one train a day and service became two to three days slower from Seattle/Quincy to Chicago, Cold Train officials said.
The service changes caused some of Cold Train’s costs to double and prompted many customers to use other transportation service options, they said, adding that the Cold Train also lost most of its fresh produce business.

For the past five years, the company's business model was based on three-day rail service to and from Chicago. As a result of BNSF’s decision to instead provide six-day service, "it now takes twice as much equipment, refrigeration and fuel, etc., to move the same freight," Cold Train officials said.

For the past three months, Cold Train executives have worked with the company's customers and BNSF officials to accommodate the service changes, but efforts have been unsuccessful, they said.

BNSF officials were disappointed to learn the Cold Train was suspending its operation since they had been working with the company for the past few months to provide options that would allow them to continue to operate the service, said BNSF spokesperson Amy Casas in an email.

"We will keep working with them or another operator should they wish to provide service to and from Quincy," she said.

Although BNSF continues to register improvements in network velocity and on-time performance, schedule changes were required to provide more accuracy in transit times, said Casas.

"We have and will continue to make every effort to frequently communicate and be transparent with our customers. We have seen increased volumes across multiple sectors, particularly on our Northern lines in the past year," she said. "This is a case of rapid growth for several commodities and we are not favoring one commodity over another. Our customers will see improvements in our railroad and have our commitment that we are making the necessary investments to handle all of our customers' business."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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