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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Average train speed still a drag for U.S. Class Is, Smith Barney/Citigroup says


As of April Fools Day, the U.S. Class Is hardly were in a jovial mood about their average system velocity. Through 2005’s first 13 weeks ending April 1, the roads’ train speeds still lagged behind last year’s averages while the Canadian Class Is continued to boost velocity, according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's ground transportation research report.

Average train speeds stood at 24.6 mph for Kansas City Southern, down 10.2 percent; 19.5 mph for CSX Transportation, down 6.5 percent; 24.1 mph for BNSF Railway Co., down 6.2 percent; 21.2 mph for Union Pacific Railroad, down 3.9 percent; 24.2 mph for Canadian National Railway Co., up 3.3 percent and 24.4 mph for Canadian Pacific Railway, up 2.1 percent compared with 2004’s first 13 weeks. Data wasn’t available for Norfolk Southern Corp.

“The Canadian rails continue to be the only North American Class Is to see year-over-year improvement in their service metrics,” said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report.

Excluding UP, all the Class Is continue to operate more cars on line compared with last year. Through 13 weeks, KCS’ cars on line increased 7.9 percent to 27,385 units; BNSF’s, 3.4 percent to 200,978 units; CPR’s, 2.0 percent to 69,347 units; and CSX’s, 1.5 percent to 234,189 units. UP’s cars on line dropped 0.1 percent to 321,492 units.

“Cars on line at Union Pacific have declined for four consecutive weeks to their lowest level since early 2004, thus possibly indicating improving network fluidity,” said Flower.

In terms of average terminal dwell times through April 1, CN's average (based on nine terminals) of 14.5 hours dropped 3.9 percent and UP's (13 terminals) average of 29.5 hours decreased 1.0 percent compared with 2004’s first 13 weeks. But CSXT's average (based on 12 terminals) rose 10.2 percent to 29.9 hours; KCS' (four terminals) went up 4.2 percent to 27.9 hours; CPR’s (9 terminals) increased 1.4 percent to 34.9 hours; and BNSF's (11 terminals) rose 0.6 percent to 9.9 hours.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/8/2005