Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

CSX 1st Quarter Net Income up 2%

April 21, 2017

CSX said on Thursday that its first quarter 2017 net income rose 2 percent to $362 million, or 39 cents per share.

In a news release, CSX said that discounting a $173 million restructuring charge, the adjusted earnings were 51 cents per share.

Those numbers compare with net income of $356 million, or 37 cents per share in the first quarter of 2016.

During the first quarter of this year revenue was up 10 percent to $2.87 billion compared with $2.6 billion in 2016.

CSX attributed the revenue growth to volume growth across most markets, overall core pricing gains and increased fuel recovery.

The railroad believes that its second quarter outlook is favorable because of anticipated growth in most markets, including agriculture and food, export coal, fertilizers, forest products, intermodal and minerals.

The business outlook is neutral outlook for automotive, chemicals, metals and equipment. The domestic coal market has an unfavorable outlook for domestic coal.

CEO E. Hunter Harrison said during a conference call that CSX expects to have an operating ratio in 2017 in the mid-60s, earnings per share growth of around 25 percent off the 2016 reported base of $1.81, and free cash flow before dividends of around $1.5 billion.

The CSX board of directors have approved a $1 billion share repurchase program, which management expects to complete by the end of the first quarter of 2018.

CSX began buying back shares of its stock in April 2015 and has spent $2 billion on that to date.

As for capital spending, CSX now expects to invest $2.1 billion in 2017, including approximately $270 million for Positive Train Control.

More than half of the 2017 capital spending will be used to sustain core infrastructure with the balance allocated to projects supporting profitable growth, efficiency initiatives and service improvements.

CSX trimmed its capital budget for this year by $100 million. Some planned capital projects are being paused as management continues to study its terminal and operating plans.

As expected, CSX plans to continue creating longer passing sidings, particularly in the Chicago-Florida corridor where train lengths are limited by 6,500-foot sidings.

Under the Michael Ward administration, CSX had announced plans to extending or add 27 sidings in that corridor. Harrison expects to move some sidings to create a longer siding elsewhere.

“If we have sidings that are too short for the longer trains, we’re certainly not going to leave those sitting in the ground and not being utilized,” he said. “We’ll pick up one 6,500-foot siding and move it 15 miles down the railroad and put it with another 6,500. We’ve got a 13,000-foot siding.”

Since Harrison took over as CEO last month, CSX has laid off 765 employees – about 3 percent of its workforce – and further announcements are expected of continued cost cutting initiatives.

CSX chopped a record $420 million of expenses in 2016 and expects to top that this year.

Among the expected moves will be consolidating the railroad’s nine divisions. Also likely to be consolidated are the nine dispatching centers CSX now operates.

The streamlining of operations will result in 550 of the railroad’s 4,400 locomotives being removed from service and stored by the end of the summer. CSX has already mothballed another 550 locomotives.  About 25,000 freight cars will be stored.

CSX wants to impose a balance of operations over seven days a week and reduce the average terminal dwell time from 26 hours to somewhere in the high teens.

During the conference call, Harrison suggested that he does not expect any mergers or acquisitions to occur during the four-year life of his contract.

Harrison Gives Preview of What’s in Store at CSX

April 21, 2017

CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison gave a preview on Thursday about what is in store at the railroad in the coming months and years.

Speaking during a conference call with Wall Street investors, Harrison called the CSX network a bowl of spaghetti when compared to the linear-oriented systems he oversaw at Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Illinois Central.

E. Hunter Harrison

Although he thinks that CSX does well in moving intermodal trains, Harrison believes merchandise freight needs to move faster.

The average speed of CSX merchandise freight is now 18 mph between terminals, but Harrison believes it could be boosted to 27 to 28 mph.

One way to boost transit times is by skipping terminals. Ultimately, Harrison wants to see CSX provide merchandise service that is on a par with trucks.

CSX Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn said CSX has made two significant operating changes since Harrison arrived.

Some traffic that had been moving in unit trains has been merged into merchandise trains and four of the railroad’s 12 hump yards have been converted to flat switching.

Sanborn said the changes will allow CSX to provide seven-day-a-week service, bring balance to the system, increase train length, cut terminal dwell time and reduce the time that freight spends in transit.

CSX is expected to continue closing humps although Sanborn said she doesn’t know by how many because management is studying each yard individually.

Harrison described hump yards as a relic of an era when a much higher percentage of rail freight traffic was merchandise service.

In a related matter, Harrison said CSX will consolidate yards in areas where multiple yards now exist and sell the land used by yards that are closed.

There was speculation earlier that CSX would sell some secondary lines, but Harrison said he doesn’t expect any major line sales in 2017 because management is focusing on improving operations of the current network.

Other steps CSX plans to make, Harrison said, include having fewer train sets devoted to unit coal train service, but having faster cyling of cars between mines and customers.

CSX is not looking to drop some of its less-profitable merchandise traffic as Canadian Pacific did while Harrison was that railroad’s CEO.

“No, we’re not looking at demarketing,” he said. “We’re looking at marketing.”

As predicted, Harrison will trim the CSX work force. The railroad now has a hiring freeze in place and expects to lose 9 percent of its work force through attrition.

He added, though, that management does not have a target for work force cuts.

Another labor-related change may see CSX pull out of national negotiations with labor unions and instead bargain directly with the unions.

Harrison would like to see train and engine crews paid by the hour in return for the company offering job guarantees. Ultimately, Harrison said he wants to lower T&E costs by 30 to 35 percent.

One area in which Harrison does not expect change is the number of crew members on each train. “I’m not a one-man crew advocate,” he said. “ . . . to take a 20,000 ton train on line of road, with one person, I don’t think it’s good business,”

Sounding like a union officer, Harrison said there are safety issues with one-person crews and he sees the value of having extra set of eyes and ears in the cab.

If one crew member had to deal with such things as a broken air hose or a knuckle failure, that could result in delays.

Harrison said one-person crews might make sense in some situation, citing switching at mines.

Amtrak Tests Charger Locomotive in Midwest

April 20, 2017

One of the new SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be assigned to Midwest Corridor trains was tested between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday.

No. 4611 was on the point for test train 941 from Chicago to Milwaukee, running ahead of regularly scheduled Hiawatha Service No. 329.

It was the first test of a Charger locomotive in the Midwest. Testing has been conducted previously on the east and west coasts.

Two Chargers, Nos. 4611 and 4604 arrived in Chicago late last month.

Siemens built the Chargers at a factory in California as part of an order placed by the departments of transportation of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Maryland. The order was for 69 locomotives of which Illinois purchased 33.

Most of the Chargers in the Midwest are expected to operate on corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Further tests of the Chargers are expected to be performed on other Midwest routes.

NS DC to AC Loco Involved in Derailment

April 18, 2017

One of the DC to AC tribute locomotives of Norfolk Southern was involved in a derailment late last week in Pennsylvania on the Pittsburgh line that resulted in minor injuries to the train crew.

The railroad has not said what caused coal train No. 593 to derail last Friday at CP McVey in Mattawana, Pennsylvania.

The train’s two locomotives and more than 20 cars left the tracks about 60 miles east of Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Involved in the accident was AC44C6M No. 4001, one of the first conversions carried out by NS shop forces. No. 4001 sports a blue and gray livery, one of two to have it.

The Pittsburgh Line was reopened on Sunday morning.

CSX May be Ready to Reopen ex-Clinchfield Line

April 13, 2017

With hump operations closing, CSX is seeking alternative routes to move traffic, which has caused it to look at the dormant former Clinchfield line between Russell, Kentucky, and Bostic, North Carolina.

Trains magazine reported this week that an empty tank car train ran north on the ex-Clinchfield, which the railroad’s previous management had closed last October.

At the time, CSX said it was concentrating on a triangle of routes linking New York and Chicago, Chicago and Florida, and Florida and New York.

It is not publicly known yet if new CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison and his team will continue to follow the CSX of Tomorrow strategy implemented during the administration of Michael Ward.

Since Harrison became CEO last month, CSX has closed three humps in favor of flat switching at yards in Atlanta, Louisville, Kentucky; and Toledo.

Until it was idled, the Clinchfield had hosted about a dozen coal trains a day as well as a few manifest and intermodal trains.

NS Honors 55 Chemical Shippers for Safety

April 12, 2017

Fifty-five companies have received the 2016 Thoroughbred Chemical Safety Award from Norfolk Southern in recognition of their safe handling of hazardous materials products.

NS said the companies safely shipped 208,503 carloads of chemical products in 2016.

In a news release, the railroad said chemical manufacturers and plants are recognized if they ship at least 1,000 carloads of hazardous products over the NS network without a single incident during the year.

NS is a participant in the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Partner Program, which sets standards to identify, reduce, and manage process risks from the environmental, health, safety, and security perspectives.

Shippers earning the 2016 Thoroughbred Chemical Safety Award included:

Altivia Petrochemicals; Apex Terminal; ArcelorMittal USA; Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, Illinois., plant; Ascend Performance Materials LLC; BP Products North America Inc.; Buckeye Partners L.P.; Cargill Inc.; Chemtrade Logistics Inc.; CHS Inc.; Covestro LLC; Crestwood Equity Partners LP; Delaware City Refining LLC, Reybold, Delaware, plant; Elbow River Marketing Ltd.; ERCO Worldwide; ExxonMobil Chemical Company; Flint Hill Resources LP; Formosa Plastics Corporation U.S.A.; Green Plains Inc.; Horsehead Corporation; Hunt Refining Co. Inc.; INVISTA S.à r.l; Imperial Oil Limited; Irving Oil;

Kemira Chemicals Inc.; Kemira Water Solutions Inc.; Lima Refining Company (Husky); Linde LLC; Marathon Petroleum Co. LP; Marquis Energy LLC; Midwest Terminals of Toledo; NGL Energy Partners LP; Norfalco Sales, Glencore Canada Corporation; NOVA Chemicals Corporation; Nucor Corp.; Olin Corporation; One Earth Energy LLC; Pacific Ethanol Pekin; Paulsboro Refining Company, Paulsboro, N.J., plant; Phillips 66; Plains Midstream Canada ULC; Plains Marketing Van Hook Crude Terminal; Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan; Reagent Chemical & Research Inc.;

Shintech Inc.; Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy LLC; Sunbelt Chlor Alkali Partnership; Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals; The Chemours Company FC LLC; The Dow Chemical Company; The International Group Inc.; TransMontaigne Product Services Inc.; United Refining Company; Valero Energy Corporation; and Vopak Terminal Savannah.

Railroad Carload Traffic up 7.3% in March

April 7, 2017

Carload traffic grew by 7.3 percent in March when compared with the same month in 2016, the Association of American Railroads reported.

U.S. railroads moved 1,283,489 carloads in March, up 87,183 carloads from March 2016.

The carriers originated 1,298,173 containers and trailers, a gain of 3.8 percent, or 47,180 units, from a year ago.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal in March were 2,581,662, up 5.5 percent or 134,363 carloads and intermodal units over March 2016.

Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw gains led by coal, up 19 percent or 63,846 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 12.5 percent or 13,154 carloads, and grain, up 10.6 percent or 11,336 carloads.

Commodities that declined from March 2016 included motor vehicles and parts, down 5.3 percent or 4,999 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, off 8.1 percent or 4,382 carloads, and chemicals, down 1.3 percent or 2,113 carloads.

Excluding coal, carloads gained 2.7 percent year-to-year.

“Railroading is not for the faint of heart, as markets are continually changing and railroads have to adapt to changing circumstances,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray in a statement. “Despite recent increases, in absolute terms rail coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and rail crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago. On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008.”

Empire Service Skeds Modified by CSX Track Work

April 6, 2017

Some Empire Service trains will operate on modified schedules between April 9 and Sept. 4 due to CSX track work.

In a service advisory, Amtrak did not identify the trains affected but said some trains will depart as much as 25 minutes early.

Between April 9 and May 10, Amtrak said two Empire Service trains will operate between Niagara Falls and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, on Sunday through Wednesday.

Three Empire Service trains will operate between those points on Thursday through Saturday.

Amtrak said that schedules will change throughout the track work period.

CSX Sets Annual Meeting for June 5

April 5, 2017

Under normal circumstances, the CSX annual meeting, which has been set for June 5 in Richmond, Virginia, would mean little except to the company’s shareholders and those who take a keen interest in the activities of the railroad.

But among the issues to be decided at the meeting is whether CSX should reimburse hedge fund Mantle Ridge the $55 million that it paid CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison to retire early from Canadian Pacific. In doing that, Harrison forfeited various bonuses from CP.

If the shareholders vote against paying Mantle Ridge, Harrison has said he will step down as CSX CEO.

Harrison is also demanding $29 million from CSX and wants it to pay for a tax bill that he has incurred.

Many observers expect CSX shareholders to approve the compensation demands because CSX stock has risen 30 percent in value since word got out that Mantle Ridge was seeking to install Harrison as CSX CEO.

The CSX board of directors has not taken a position on how shareholders should vote other than to note that there are arguments for and against giving Harrison the money he wants.

Amtrak VP Thinks Status Quo Will Prevail

April 5, 2017

An Amtrak executive believes that once the dust settles in Congress on the fiscal year 2018 federal budget the status quo will prevail at Amtrak, meaning that the long-distance trains the Trump administration wants to stop funding will continue to operate.

Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner told the Future Railway Organisation seminar on March 29 that he had little immediate cause for concern over the future of Amtrak’s network.

Gardner noted that previous administrations have proposed zeroing out Amtrak, but Congress has never gone along with those plans.

The Trump “skinny budget” would continue Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and state corridor trains paid for largely by states that they serve. But funding of long-distance passenger trains would end.

“The cost and logistical complexity of removing these trains would be prohibitive, we feel,” he said. “There is a reason that they have survived through recent decades.”

Gardner said the long-distance trains play an important role in serving intermediate markets and any attempt to “go back in” in the future would cost at least $1 billion.

Noting that in 2015 Amtrak was included in the FAST surface transportation bill approved by legislation passed in Congress, that gives the national rail passenger carrier a greater degree of
institutional stability.

“The most likely outcome is that the status quo will prevail,” Gardner said.

Gardner said Amtrak is supportive of a private sector inter-city  passenger service in Florida known as Brightline and the planned Texas Central high speed project.

“Naturally , we see that as an endorsement of the rail mode, and we welcome the addition of services able to showcase the latest in rail technology,” he said.