CSX Coal Customer Rips the Railroad’s Service

CSX head E. Hunter Harrison and Murray Energy chief Robert Murray might not be exchanging Christmas cards this year even though Murray’s company is a major CSX shipper.

Murray said CSX service has gotten worse since Harrison took over as CEO of the railroad in March. Furthermore, Murray thinks CSX service has been poor for years.

To borrow a phrase from a popular movie of several years ago, Murray is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore.

“We cannot sit idly by while CSX fails to provide agreed-to service, breaks their own charter from the federal government, and jeopardizes our company’s existence,” Murray said in a statement released last week.

As Murray sees it, CSX has for several years caused “countless” delays and cancellations of trains scheduled to haul coal from his company’s mines.

Murray’s shot across the bow of CSX came about the same time that Harrison was proclaiming that the fossil-fuel era is over.

As for Murray’s complaints about CSX service, “CSX strongly disagrees with Murray Energy’s statements and will respond fully and factually to any STB complaint,”said CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said. “CSX will continue, as it has, to work with Murray Energy to provide rail service in accordance with CSX’s commitment to service excellence and compliance with regulatory obligations.”

Doolittle was referencing a statement made by Murray that the company has filed a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board.

But Trains magazine reported on Tuesday that no formal complaint had been filed as of Monday.

The magazine said that Murray Energy might have notified the STB’s Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program, which quietly referees disputes between railroads and their customers.

Harrison made his comments about fossil fuels during a conference call with investors during which he discussed the company’s second quarter financial performance.

When asked about the future of coal and how it will affect CSX, Harrison said, “my personal view . . . is fossil fuels are dead. That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.”

Harrison followed that up by saying that CSX would not be making capital investments in its coal network.

CSX management had taken a similar view long before Harrison arrived, saying that in the face of declining coal traffic it was focusing capital investments on its high-density core routes that form a triangle connecting Chicago, New York, and Florida.

CSX earned $3.7 billion handling 1.5 million coal carloads in 2011 but in 2016 that had fallen to $1.8 billion and 838,000 carloads of coal.

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One Response to “CSX Coal Customer Rips the Railroad’s Service”

  1. Michael Mayher Says:

    Considering the resurgence of the coal industry and the recent opening of a new mine in Pennsylvania, Mr. Harrison’s perspective appears more politically expedient and a personal opinion, rather than a business and investment forecast.

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