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Rail News: Shippers

BNSF, ag product shippers hold meeting to address delays


U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) on Monday announced he arranged a meeting yesterday between senior officials of BNSF Railway Co., American Crystal Sugar Co., North Dakota Farmers Union and other agricultural product constituents to discuss ways to resolve shipping delays that have occurred this winter.

The meeting also addressed Amtrak service delays in North Dakota. The participants were BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose, American Crystal Sugar President and Chief Executive Officer David Berg, North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne, United Sugars Inc. President John Doxsie, U.S. Beet Sugar Association President Jim Johnson and North Dakota Grain Growers Association Executive Director Dan Wogsland, who is a member of the North Dakota Agriculture Rail Council.

Ag shippers have expressed concerns that growers aren’t getting timely service from the railroads serving the state, said Hoeven in a press release. Under normal conditions, rail cars arrive to pick up grain within three to four days of a prearranged schedule, but currently cars are being delayed up to three weeks, he said.

BNSF has agreed to invest $5 billion in new resources this year, including $600 million in North Dakota; add 5,000 crew members to maintenance work system-wide, including 250 maintenance workers in North Dakota; add 500 new locomotives, as well as an additional 125 temporary locomotives that will be dispatched to North Dakota within the next two weeks; add 5,000 new rail cars; check on suitable cars for sugar shipments in Grand Forks; and post past due orders on its website to facilitate better communication with ag shippers.

“BNSF has committed to large investments in resources and people to meet North Dakota’s growing needs,” said Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who attended the meeting. “The challenge is to meet these needs as soon as possible. We also called on BNSF to make sure Amtrak customers have a reliable schedule and reasonable service. We will continue to work with BNSF and its North Dakota customers until the situation improves.”