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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. Class Is' service metrics far from impressive, Smith Barney/Citigroup says


In a word, the U.S. Class Is’ year-to-date service metrics are “disappointing,” according to Smith Barney/Citigroup's latest ground transportation research report.

“In particular, average train speeds have slowed at each of the rails on a year-over-year basis despite generally unchallenging comparisons,” said Smith Barney/Citigroup Managing Director and Progressive Railroading columnist Scott Flower in the report.

During 2005’s first 21 weeks ending May 27, average velocity stood at 24.0 mph for Kansas City Southern, down 11.1 percent; 24.0 mph for BNSF Railway Co., down 5.9 percent; 19.3 mph for CSX Transportation, down 5.9 percent; 21.9 mph for Norfolk Southern Corp., down 5.4 percent; and 21.2 mph for Union Pacific Railroad, down 2.3 percent compared with 2004’s first 21 weeks. Average trains speeds of 24.8 mph for Canadian National Railway Co. and 24.5 mph for Canadian Pacific Railway rose 3.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Excluding CN and UP, all the Class Is continue to operate more cars on line compared with last year. Through 21 weeks, KCS’ cars on line increased 8.1 percent to 27,438 units; NS’, 6.8 percent to 195,216 units; CPR’s, 3.7 percent to 69,562 units; BNSF’s, 3.1 percent to 203,328 units; and CSXT’s, 1.4 percent to 235,073 units. UP’s and CN’s cars on line decreased 1.1 percent to 320,208 units and 0.2 percent to 113,172 units, respectively.

CN and UP also are two of three Class Is — the other, KCS — to reduce average terminal dwell times on a year-over-year basis. Through 21 weeks, CN’s average (based on nine terminals) of 13.8 hours dropped 5.3 percent, UP's average (13 terminals) of 28.6 hours decreased 5.2 percent and KCS’ (four terminals) average of 27.0 hours fell 0.3 percent compared with 2004’s first 21 weeks. CSXT's average (based on 12 terminals) rose 9.4 percent to 30.3 hours, NS’ (14 terminals) went up 7.1 percent to 24.2 hours, CPR’s (nine terminals) increased 6.0 percent to 33.3 hours and BNSF's (11 terminals) rose 1.2 percent to 10.0 hours.

“Given the oncoming summer, we look for service metrics at the U.S. rails to improve on a sequential basis in the weeks and months ahead,” said Flower. “However, we note that sustained traffic volumes and seasonal track maintenance could hamper or slow operational gains.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/3/2005