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Post-Katrina update: Class Is lend hand to Gulf Coast region employees, residents

As the Class Is continue trying to restore Gulf Coast operations post-Hurricane Katrina, the large roads are making an effort to help their employees and local residents that were affected by the storm.

Through its Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation, BNSF Railway Co. donated $1 million to the American Red Cross last week. The railroad also offered to provide transportation for relief and recovery operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“All of America grieves at the unfolding tragedy, and our company and employees are anxious to help,” said BNSF Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose in a letter to the governors of the three states.

The Association of American Railroads, Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others are trying to coordinate a joint relief response among the nation’s freight railroads, said Rose.

Meanwhile, CSX Corp. is offering assistance to its employees and residents in the Gulf Coast region. The Class I will cover 300 employees’ salaries and benefits through September and pay them an additional $1,000 for urgent needs; and provide temporary work assignments for affected employees at other CSX locations, as well as travel and meal allowances, and a monthly $1,250 living stipend. In addition, the railroad established a 24-hour resource center and created an assistance-related page on its Web site ( to help affected employees.

CSX also will provide $300,000 in additional employee and community assistance, including $125,000 contributions to the railroad’s Employee Disaster Relief Fund and American Red Cross, and a dollar-for-dollar match for employee contributions to the two agencies.

“We look forward to hearing from every one of our employees as soon as possible and will continue to join hands with the other members of the business community to provide assistance at this difficult time,” said CSX Chairman, President and CEO Michael Ward in a prepared statement.

Union Pacific Railroad — which employs more than 1,000 workers in Louisiana, including about 250 in the New Orleans area — has established an employee assistance hotline and made available counseling services for affected workers.

“Communication with our employees in those areas impacted by the storm has been limited or non-existent,” said UP Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales Jack Koraleski in a Sept. 2 letter to customers. “The safety and well-being of these employees, their families, and the communities we serve is our top priority.”

While the Class Is extend a hand to Gulf Coast employees, a short line is reaching out to help area shippers. The Timber Rock Railroad (TIBR) is re-opening a transload facility in Silsbee, Texas to provide a shipping point on the western edge of the storm-damaged region. The facility will be open 24 hours a day to handle demand, if necessary.

“We want to help shippers get product to the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and we have the resources at this site to do so,” said Kirk Hawley, senior vice president of marketing for TIBR parent The Watco Cos. Inc. “The transload site has a storage yard, loading dock, covered storage [and] the capacity to move 400 rail cars.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/6/2005