UP aims to add resources, boost capacity to regain network fluidity

Since service metrics have slipped of late, the Class I is recruiting more workers, adjusting trains to meet tighter schedules and continuing targeted initiatives. Union Pacific Railroad

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

Union Pacific Railroad has experienced hiccups with network fluidity and service performance since February, when two major winter storms significantly impacted operations. 

The Class I’s key service metrics in February show slippage compared with January figures: car velocity dipped 3%, car dwell time rose 3%, on-time performance declined by 4 percentage points and Intermodal trip plan compliance fell by 6 percentage points. 

The railroad’s operating team has been adding resources to minimize service impacts and restore operations quickly in the midst of strong demand, wrote UP Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker in a letter to customers dated March 16. For the week ending March 13, the Class I’s carloads exceeded 165,000, the highest weekly total so far in 2022.  

“As our carloadings increase, we are seeing more inventory build up on our network,” Rocker wrote. “Our operating team remains focused on reducing our operating inventory, launching more trains on schedule and continuing targeted initiatives to improve the fluidity of the network. In addition, we are making progress on our crew hiring and recruiting strategies to bring on new employees.” 

For unit-train customers, the railroad has implemented process improvement initiatives for the locomotive fleet and strategically positioned crews in key locations to support higher demand.  

“These actions, coupled with reducing the number of rail cars on our network, will drive more fluid operations and improve service to the levels that our customers expect,” said Rocker.

Englewood Yard Work In 2020, the railroad launched a major transformation effort at Englewood Yard in Houston to create a “premier rail-car processing hub,” as UP leaders characterize the project. Union Pacific Railroad

Intermodal customers who rely on UP’s Englewood Yard in Houston will notice some operational performance improvements in the near term and more significant service boosts in the near future because of a major transformation project that’s underway, he believes. Many of the railroad’s subdivisions converge at the yard. 

Crews in February replaced nearly 23,000 ties and more than eight miles of rail at the yard, helping to prepare the facility to become “a premier rail-car processing hub,” Rocker said. 

After all work is completed — perhaps by year’s end — Englewood Yard’s daily car processing capacity will jump from 1,700 to 3,000.

The final phase of software and hardware upgrades to a new hump computer system is expected to begin soon.  

“We anticipate implementation and testing to occur over a two-week period with limited delays to shipments,” said Rocker. “Once fully implemented, we will be able to process more rail cars.” 

For now, UP remains focused on delivering shipments as quickly as possible. 

“We appreciate patience as we complete these improvements that will keep shipments moving efficiently through this critical region,” said Rocker.