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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Railroads hunker down as Hurricane Rita nears Texas, Louisiana


With Hurricane Rita bearing down on parts of Texas and Louisiana, ready to come ashore early tomorrow, freight and passenger railroads have been scrambling the past two days to batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm’s wrath.

Yesterday, BNSF Railway Co. suspended all operations in Harris County, Texas, to enable 300 employees to evacuate and attend to personal needs. The Class I also relocated 25 employees from a Spring, Texas, dispatching center to BNSF’s Fort Worth headquarters.

The Class I plans to continue operating coal trains to a Reliant Energy plant southwest of Houston. However, the railroad relocated all freight cars from Galveston Island, and moved inland other locomotives and cars threatened by potential flooding.

Meanwhile, Trinity Railway Express (TRE) will operate a passenger train today on BNSF’s line between Houston and Dallas to evacuate 450 Houston residents. Comprising two TRE locomotives and six passenger cars, the train will be operated by a TRE crew provided by Herzog Transit Services Inc. In Houston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, suspended transit-rail and bus service yesterday.

At Union Pacific Railroad, officials have embargoed all traffic moving to or from Lake Charles, La., to Houston, and south of Houston to Brownsville, Texas. All intermodal traffic destined for Houston and Englewood also is embargoed.

The Class I is moving cars out of its Texas coastal yards in Galveston, Freeport, Corpus Christi and Bloomington to higher ground, and removing signal masts and crossing gates.

Kansas City Southern also is repositioning locomotives and cars away from points in Houston, Beaumont, Corpus Christi and Port Arthur, Texas. KCS also has embargoed traffic to Beaumont, Port Arthur, Port Neches and Chaison, Texas.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is working with all railroads, the Association of American Railroads, and American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to relocate cars carrying hazardous materials cars in Texas and Louisiana. The department also is expediting a waiver process to enable railroads to clear damaged equipment and resume operations more quickly after the hurricane passes.