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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. roads continue record-setting coal-carrying pace


Electric utilities have ample coal supplies for this winter, the North American Electric Reliability Council says. That’s due in large part to U.S. railroads, which have “sharply” increased coal deliveries this year, according to a Nov. 21 Energy Information Administration report.

Through 2006’s first 47 weeks, coal shipments were up 4.4 percent compared with the same period in 2005, when railroads delivered a record 804 million tons of coal, mostly to electric utilities, according to Association of American Railroads’ data.

In November, Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway Co. loaded a record average of 67.1 trains per day on their jointly owned Powder River Basin (PRB) line, beating the previous monthly record of 66.5 trains per day set in June.

For the week ended Dec. 3, BNSF average daily PRB train loadings totaled 49.3 compared with 44.3 trains per day during the same 2005 week. Year-to-date, the Class I has loaded a total daily average of 49.5 trains per day in the PRB, up 10 percent compared with data from the same 2005 period. Through Dec. 3, BNSF loaded 264.3 million tons of coal system-wide, up 10.4 percent compared with 2005.

Union Pacific Railroad also is setting records. In November, the Class I moved 20 million tons of coal from the PRB, as well as mines in Colorado and Utah, an 8 percent increase compared with November 2005’s total. The railroad loaded an average of 35.7 trains per day in the PRB last month, its third-highest daily average. In Colorado and Utah, UP loaded a record average of 11.6 trains per day.

The Class I set train size records, as well. UP’s PRB trains averaged 15,135 tons each, an increase of 200 tons compared with last year’s annual average. The railroad attributes the increase in part to a new wheel-changing process at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., under which crews can change wheels without removing cars from a train.

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More News from 12/7/2006