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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Class Is not off to great start in service performance, Smith Barney/Citigroup says


One week into 2006, most Class Is still are struggling to improve service metrics — just as they had been throughout 2005, according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's latest ground transportation research report.

During the week ending Jan. 6, CSX Transportation’s average velocity of 20.1 mph decreased 6.9 percent; BNSF Railway Co.’s velocity of 23.8 mph fell 3.6 percent and Norfolk Southern Corp.’s velocity of 21.9 mph declined 2.2 percent compared with 2005’s first week. Canadian National Railway Co.’s 27.1 mph and Union Pacific Railroad’s 22.2 mph averages increased 9.3 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. Canadian Pacific Railway’s and Kansas City Southern’s velocity data wasn’t available.

Only three Class Is were operating fewer cars on line compared with 2005’s first week. During the period ending Jan. 6, BNSF’s cars on line dropped 9.9 percent to 214,559 units; NS’, 7.3 percent to 206,297 units; and KCS’, 3.3 percent to 26,694 units. CN’s cars on line rose 3.3 percent to 210,683 units; CSXT’s, 2.9 percent to 226,539 units; and UP’s, 0.5 percent to 322,900 units.

In addition, only two Class Is reduced system-wide average terminal dwell time compared with last year. NS’ average of 24.9 hours and BNSF’s average of 24.7 hours decreased 3.3 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. CN’s 11.7-hour, CSXT’s 28.2-hour and UP’s 29.7-hour averages increased 15.8 percent, 6.9 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, compared with 2005’s first week.

“Given last year’s unimpressive service performance, we anticipate some improvement as the year progresses,” said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report. “Solid freight demand, areas of tight capacity and unpredictable seasonal weather in the first quarter, however, will not make operational improvement easy.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/13/2006