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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Class Is continue to deal with Hurricane Katrina's aftermath


Days after Hurricane Katrina tore through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, several Class Is are restoring some service to the areas or clearing and repairing track.

Yesterday, Norfolk Southern Railway announced it’s operating trains again in the three states, except for the immediate New Orleans area. The railroad is re-routing New Orleans traffic through other gateways.

“Lines are open, trains are moving and we are ready to do our part in the overall recovery,” said NS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Goode in a prepared statement.

Before the storm, crews moved rolling stock inland, and staged workers, ballast, rail and equipment just outside the hurricane’s path. After Katrina hit, crews inspected 1,400 miles of track and removed 3,680 fallen trees in the Gulf states.

Within the next few days, workers will begin repairing a 5.8-mile concrete ballast trestle across Lake Pontchartrain from Slidell, La., to New Orleans. Several miles of rail on the bridge were washed away. NS’ Oliver Yard in New Orleans remains under water.

“Once we restore rail to the bridge and repair adjacent trackage, and once water recedes, we will be able to move needed materials and supplies into the area,” said NS Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Tobias.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Southern maintenance crews have cleared a line from Baton Rouge to Frellsen, La. — about 10 miles outside New Orleans. The Class I has embargoed traffic for Gramercy, Reserve and Norco, La., until electricity is restored, and all traffic bound for New Orleans from any KCS station or interchange point. KCS also embargoed traffic for Mobile, Ala., and Waynesboro, Quitman and Enterprise, Miss.

So far, maintenance crews can’t get close enough to Gulfport, Miss., to assess damage, KCS officials said.

The railroad has reopened its intermodal ramp in Jackson, Miss., and trains are moving west from Jackson on the Meridian Speedway. Crews have removed fallen trees between Vicksburg and Jackson, and continue to remove debris between Jackson and Meridian.

In New Orleans, Union Pacific Railroad has completed initial inspections of mainlines and terminals.

“While there is debris to be cleared, our track structure sustained no major damage,” UP officials said in a customer alert. “Structural inspections of bridges in the New Orleans area continue.”

Traffic embargoes remain in effect for the Livonia Subdivision between St. James, La., east to New Orleans, and the Lafayette Subdivision between New Iberia, La., east to the Big Easy.

“We continue to work closely with the eastern carriers as they assess the damage to their systems and are jointly developing alternative operating plans for New Orleans traffic through other gateways,” UP officials said.