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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

9/7/2001



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

East's coal shortage means more long hauls — and revenue — for NS


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Coal carloads have been buttressing U.S. railroads' freight traffic for much of 2001, while other commodities are down practically across the board compared with 2000 carload figures.

But the coal surge hasn't been an equal western/eastern mine proposition. And that's OK with Norfolk Southern Railway, which during the past few months participated in two of the longest coal moves from Montana's Powder River Basin (PRB) to eastern power plants.

"PRB coal is making its way east because eastern coal is less available," said Bill Patterson, NS manager of utility coal, in a prepared statement. "For us, it means longer hauls, resulting in more revenue."

One train moved from Peabody Group's North Antelope/Rochelle mining operation in the PRB to Chicago via Union Pacific Railroad; NS then carried the coal load to Binghamton, N.Y., where Canadian Pacific Railway and Guilford Rail System completed the move to Northeast Utilities' Mount Tom power plant in Massachusetts.

The other 100-car train — which NS officials believe was the longest west-to-east move of PRB coal to a U.S. utility — originated at Montana's Spring Creek Mine, carrying 10,000 tons of coal 2,350 miles through nine states via Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CPR, NS and Guilford Rail to Public Service Co. of New Hampshire in Merrimack, N.H.

Both utilities are attempting to reduce sulfur emissions by burning coal from PRB, considered the nation's largest low-sulfur coal-producing region.

"Utilities are burning more coal due to high gas and oil prices, and some mines produce high-sulfur coal as opposed to PRB's low-sulfur coal," said Patterson. "All of this adds up to more business for NS."


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