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Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

NS sets income, earnings and operating ratio records


Norfolk Southern Corp. generated record third-quarter net income of $554 million, a 24 percent increase compared with the $445 million earned in third-quarter 2010, company officials announced during a conference call with analysts yesterday.

NS also set records for income from railway operations, diluted earnings per share and operating ratio. Income from railway operations surged 26 percent to $938 million, diluted earnings per share soared 34 percent to $1.59 and the operating ratio improved 2.1 points to 67.5 percent.

“Norfolk Southern produced another outstanding quarter,” said NS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman. “We continue to see modest improvement in most of our business groups, and we remain focused on the long-term enhancement of our franchise.”

Railway operating revenue rose 18 percent to $2.9 billion primarily because revenue per unit increased 14 percent, company officials said. The Class I’s general merchandise revenue climbed 12 percent to $1.4 billion, coal revenue jumped 27 percent to $899 million and intermodal revenue rose 19 percent to $551 million.

On the expense side, quarterly railway operating costs rose 14 percent to $2 billion, driven up primarily by higher fuel expenses (which climbed by $126 million), and compensation and benefits costs.

Over the short term, the Class I is anticipating overall modest economic growth, Moorman said.

“We anticipate that our overall volumes will grow at a rate somewhat greater than the economy,” he said. “We have an abiding belief in the resiliency of the U.S. economy and will continue to invest in the long term.”

In addition, the railroad is in the process of developing its 2012 capital budget, and while the numbers are not yet finalized, the company anticipates “another strong budget for the year” based on anticipated volume growth and expenditures for positive train control, Moorman said.

NS anticipates buying a “significant number of coal cars next year, and we have investments planned in our automotive fleet,” as well as in intermodal, he said.

— Julie Sneider

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More News from 10/27/2011