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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

North American tie purchases set record in '06, post largest year-over-year gain in two decades


North American crosstie demand was at an all-time high in 2006. Tie purchases reached a record 21.3 million units, up 14 percent compared with 2005 — the largest year-over-year increase in two decades, according to the Railway Tie Association (RTA).

To keep up with demand, tie producers set an annual record, too. Tie production totaled 22.4 million units, breaking the previous high-water mark set in 1998 — the prior banner year, RTA said — and increasing 17 percent year over year.

“Production added 1.1 million ties to inventory,” RTA officials said in the association’s monthly market activity report. “However, the inventory-to-sales ratio stood at 0.78, down from the year-ago level of 0.83.”

In December, tie production tapered off to 1.6 million units compared with 1.7 million units in November and October. Tie purchases dropped slightly — about 2 percent, or not as steep as the seasonal norm, RTA said — to 1.6 million units compared with November’s 1.65 million units.

Meanwhile, tie inventories held steady from November through December at 16.6 million units.