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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Smith Barney/Citigroup report: Service metrics show U.S. Class Is struggling to speed trains, slow glut of cars on line


During 2005's first five weeks, each U.S. Class I's average train speed fell while the two Canadian Class Is' velocity increased compared with the same 2004 period, according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's ground transportation research report.

Kansas City Southern's average train speed dropped 8.2 percent to 25 mph; Union Pacific Railroad's, 7.9 percent to 20.9 mph; CSX Transportation's, 7.4 percent to 19.8 mph; Norfolk Southern Corp.'s, 7.2 percent to 21.6 mph; and BNSF Railway Co.'s, 6.8 percent to 24.5 mph.

"While it's no secret that CSXT has been mired in operational difficulties in recent months, NS' operations have been running more smoothly — through 2004, [NS'] service metrics were the best among the U.S. Class Is," said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report, adding that poor weather conditions hindered the eastern roads' operational performance.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railway's and Canadian National Railway Co.'s average train speed rose 3.5 percent to 24.2 mph and 0.3 percent to 23.5 mph, respectively.

In terms of cars on line, all seven Class Is showed year-over-year increases through five weeks: NS, up 4.6 percent to 193,281 cars; KCS, 4.3 percent to 26,628 cars; BNSF, 2.4 percent to 197,842 cars; CPR, 2.3 percent to 69,200 cars; CSXT, 1.8 percent to 232,662 cars; CN, 1.8 percent to 114,973 cars; and UP, 1.7 percent to 322,053 cars.

Most Class Is' average terminal dwell time rose, too. During the year's first five weeks, CSXT's, UP's and NS' average dwell increased 12.6 percent to 37.7 hours, 11 percent to 35.5 hours and 2.4 percent to 28.5 hours, respectively, compared with the same 2004 period. CN's average dwell time dropped 2.2 percent to 18.1 hours and CPR's, 1.1 percent to 41.1 hours.

"Canadian National's operations started the year off poorly, but have since reversed course, thus resulting in year-over-year improvement in service metrics," said Flower.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/14/2005