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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Class Is' service metrics not showing many signs of improvement, Smith Barney/Citigroup says


Thirty-three weeks into 2005, not much has changed in Class Is’ year-over-year average train speeds — U.S. large roads continue to lag behind and the two Canadian Class Is remain ahead of last year’s pace, according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's latest ground transportation research report.

During the period ending Aug. 19, average velocity stood at 23.4 mph for Kansas City Southern, down 11.6 percent; 23.7 mph for BNSF Railway Co., down 6.0 percent; 22.0 mph for Norfolk Southern Corp., down 4.5 percent; 19.4 mph for CSX Transportation, down 3.9 percent; and 21.3 mph for Union Pacific Railroad, down 1.9 percent compared with 2004’s first 33 weeks. Average train speeds of 25.4 mph for Canadian National Railway Co. and 24.5 mph for Canadian Pacific Railway rose 4.8 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

“Through the third quarter-to-date, CN’s average train speeds have improved 5.8 percent — CN is the only railroad that has improved total traffic velocity in this period,” said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report. “While average speed along most of CN’s service types has improved, average bulk traffic (coal and grain) velocity has stood out, increasing 29.7 percent.”

Excluding CN and UP, all the Class Is continue to operate more cars on line compared with the same 2004 period. Through 33 weeks, KCS’ cars on line increased 9.1 percent to 27,545 units; NS’, 6.0 percent to 193,832 units; BNSF’s, 3.3 percent to 206,198 units; and CSXT’s, 0.5 percent to 234,477 units. CN’s and UP’s cars on line decreased 1.3 percent to 110,842 units and 1.0 percent to 319,911 units, respectively.

Meanwhile, CN and UP, along with KCS, continue to reduce average terminal dwell times. Through 33 weeks, CN’s system-wide average of 13.4 hours dropped 7.7 percent, UP's average of 28.4 hours decreased 6.3 percent and KCS’ average of 25.8 hours fell 4.8 percent compared with 2004’s first 33 weeks. CSXT’s and NS’ average terminal dwell times rose 5.7 percent each to 30.0 hours and 23.6 hours, respectively, while BNSF’s and CPR’s dwell times increased 0.5 percent each to 10.0 hours and 30.1 hours, respectively.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/25/2005