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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Katrina, robust demand aren't slowing rail traffic, AAR says

Despite Hurricane Katrina-caused damage to rail infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region, U.S. railroads continue to set traffic records. And traffic is moving in the region, as well as throughout the nation, Association of American Railroads (AAR) and Class I officials told attendees yesterday at the association’s North American Railroads Customer Forum in St. Louis.

For the second-straight year, the AAR sponsored a shipper forum to review railroads’ fall peak service plans, and discuss how the rail industry is dealing with increased demand and other recent challenges.

Hours after Katrina passed, rail crews were assessing damage, repairing track and bridges, and clearing trees and other debris from hundreds of track miles, said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger, according to a prepared statement.

“The resilience and preparedness demonstrated by the railroad industry in response to Hurricane Katrina exemplifies our ability to keep the system fluid,” he said.

Railroads are hauling more freight than ever before and charging lower rates than they did 25 years ago, said Hamberger.

“Since 1980, our productivity is up nearly 200 percent and yet our rates have dropped 60 percent, saving our customers $10 billion a year,” he said. “Before last year’s customer forum, there were predictions that railroads wouldn't be able to handle the volumes of freight that would develop from our expanding economy — those predictions were flat-out wrong.”

The forum included presentations by senior marketing and operations officers from each Class I, remarks from Surface Transportation Board Chairman Roger Nober and a shipper question-and-answer session moderated by Hamberger.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/22/2005