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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Smith Barney/Citigroup report: Class Is' service metrics show improvement

During week No. 43 ending Oct. 29, the eastern U.S. Class Is improved their service metrics compared with the previous week, according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's weekly ground transportation research report.

Norfolk Southern Railway's average train speed of 21.9 mph increased 0.1 mph compared with its four-week average. However, the Class I's average velocity in week 43 dropped 6 percent compared with the same 2003 week. NS' average terminal dwell time of 25.4 hours decreased 0.6 hours compared with week 42 and increased only 0.9 percent compared with average dwell of 25.2 hours during the same 2003 week.

CSX Transportation's average train speed in week 43 reached 20.5 mph — the Class I's highest average speed since mid-September. However, since fourth-quarter 2003, CSXT's average train speed has dropped 6.9 percent and average terminal dwell time has increased 15.1 percent.

"We anticipate CSXT's operations may continue to struggle through the remainder of the year and into early 2005 due to increased traffic caused by peak season shipments and winter weather," said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report.

In the West, Burlington Northern Santa Fe continues to improve its metrics. Since late in the third quarter, the Class I has increased average train speed 1.7 mph (or 8 percent) and decreased average terminal dwell times more than two hours (or 8 percent). During week 43, BNSF's velocity increased 0.7 mph to 23.3 mph compared with week 42.

"[BNSF also] has been able to limit the increase in the number of cars on line despite a strong increase in traffic volumes in recent months," said Flower.

During week 43, Union Pacific Railroad increased average train speed 0.2 mph to 21.3 mph and decreased average terminal dwell time 0.1 hours to 35.1 hours compared with week 42.

Meanwhile, Canadian National Railway Co. — which since late in the second quarter has been reducing its average terminal dwell time — clocked in at an average dwell time of 13.3 hours in week 43, the Class I's lowest average in several years. CN's average train speed rose 0.5 mph in week 43 to 25.1 mph compared with week 42.

"However, as the company begins to move increasing amounts of coal and grain volumes in the coming months (due to the recent opening of mines and the robust grain harvest), we wouldn’t be surprised to see average train speeds moderate from current levels as these commodities tend to travel at slower speeds," said Flower.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/4/2004