Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

South Shore Project to Begin June 1

May 26, 2022

Work is expected to get underway soon on construction of the West Lake Corridor commuter rail corridor in Northwest Indiana.

The eight-mile corridor will expand South Shore Line service from Hammond, Indiana, to Dyer, Indiana.

Michael Noland, president of the Northern Indiana Transportation Commuter District, told the agency’s board of directors that construction of the West Lake Corridor will begin June 1.

The $6.6 million project is expected to be completed within three years after construction begins.

As part of the project, workers will need to build bridges over the Grand Calumet River and various freight railroad lines in the region.

The corridor will have an intermediate station in Munster. The route uses right of way of the former Monon Railroad.

When completed, the South Shore trains will operate between Dyer and Chicago.

During the board meeting, Nolan also provided an update on the double tracking project of the main South Shore line between Michigan City and Gary.

He said work is on scheduled to be completed between Michigan City and Dune Park in Porter by the end of the year. The project will eliminate street running in Michigan City.

In the meantime, the South Shore is using buses to transport riders between the Michigan City Carroll Avenue station and Dune Park. Nolan said the bus bridge operation has carried 23,000 passengers since late February.

The next phase of the double-tracking project will involve the Dune Park-Gary segment where passengers there will rides buses as construction progresses.

The double track project is expected to be finished in 2024.

Class 1s Tell STB Service Recovery Plans

May 23, 2022

Four Class 1 railroads have filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board their plans to improve their freight service.

All of them said they have hired and are training new conductors as the carriers seek to return their service to more normal levels.

The carriers have been saying for months that crew shortages have hindered their ability to meet the expectations of their shippers.

The recovery plans were recently ordered by the STB following hearings in late April focusing on service issues the railroads have been having.

Regulators also directed the railroads to provide more information regarding their performance metrics, including local spot and pull performance as well as on-time performance within 24 hours of the original estimated time of arrival for carloads and intermodal trains.

In its six-page plan, CSX said it expects to return to 2019 service levels by the end of the year and has set a goal of 80 percent on-time performance for merchandise traffic.

Currently, CSX merchandise traffic has a 69 percent on-time rate while intermodal has been above 95 percent.

CSX said its local spot and pull performance was 83 percent for the week ending May 13.

It also said another goal is to increase average train speed by 7 percent and reduce terminal dwell by 10 percent over the next six months.

 “CSX’s service recovery focus is primarily on conductor hiring and resolving crew shortage issues in certain locations on the network,” the carrier wrote. “Adding more [motive] power to through trains would not improve service performance for CSX.”

Norfolk Southern submitted a seven-page plan that expressed uncertainty about being able to return to 2019 service levels within the next six months.

Currently, NS said, its on-time rate for merchandise traffic is 48 percent. The plan said that such things as average train speed, terminal dwell time, local service performance, and on-time performance are affected by a multitude of factors. Therefore, setting any targets or making any forecasts would be “speculative at best.”

“Where trains are not meeting expected schedules, Norfolk Southern has relaxed certain energy management tools and Norfolk Southern will continue to do so where appropriate and where it would have a positive impact on network fluidity,” NS wrote.

Bruder Elected Chairman of CN Board

May 23, 2022

Shauneen Bruder has been elected as chairman of the board of directors of Canadian National.

She previously served as  executive vice president of operations at the Royal Bank of Canada until retiring in October 2019.

Bruder has been a CN director since 2017. As CN chairman, Bruuder succeeds Robert Pace.

The board also elected as new directors David Freeman, Robert Knight and Susan Jones. Re-elected to the board were Jo-ann dePass Olsovsky, Denise Gray, Justin Howell, Kevin Lynch, Margaret McKenzie, Robert Phillips, and CN President and CEO Tracy Robinson.

The board is seeking a francophone — or someone who speaks French — who would be a Quebec-based director. CN has hired a Montreal search firm to help recruit that candidate.

R&N Receives 1st Frac Sand Unit Train

May 21, 2022

Pennsylvania regional railroad Reading & Northern said this week it took delivery of its first unit train of frac sand.

The train has handed off to R&N by Norfolk Southern on May 15 at R&N’s North Reading Yard.

R&N moved the train to a storage facility in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

The railroad last year created a transloading terminal in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, that will handle Marcellus and non-Marcellus transloading business.

Frac sand is expected to be the dominant commodity handled at the Tunkhannock terminal.

Rising Coal Prices May Benefit Railroads

May 21, 2022

Trains magazine reported this week on its website that rising coal prices may lead to increased coal traffic by rail.

The article said the coal supply is tight, which may prompt mining companies to tap into their reserves.

Spot prices of Illinois Basin coal have increased 225 percent compared with a year ago while Northern Appalachia prices are up 84 percent. Other coal mining regions have also seen rising coal prices.

Association of American Railroads figures show that through early May coal traffic on U.S. railroads had increased 7 percent in a year-over-year performance comparison. Through that date railroads had hauled 1.1 million carloads of coal.

Although coal traffic is up on Union Pacific and BNSF, it has been down on Norfolk Southern and CSX.

The article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/coals-comeback-perseveres-through-mid-2022-analysis/

CSX Makes 100 Best Corporations List

May 20, 2022

CSX has been named to the #BL Media annual 100 best corporate citizens list.

The list recognizes environmental, social and governance transparency and performance among the 1,000 largest U.S. public companies.

Companies were evaluated based on 155 ESG factors across eight pillars, including climate change, employee relations, environment, finance, governance, human rights, stakeholders and society and ESG performance.

The Russell 1000 Index companies are researched by Institutional Shareholder Services. There is no fee for companies to be included in 100 Best Corporate Citizens. CSX ranked 64th on the list.

Pa. Short Line Expected to Retire GP10s

May 19, 2022

The GP10 locomotives used by Pennsylvania short line railroad Gettysburg & Northern appear to be running on borrowed time.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the 27-mile railroad, which connects with CSX at Mt. Holly Springs, Pennsylvania, has been testing CEFX GP15D No. 1501, with a GP20 locomotive expected to arrive on the property soon.

The report said G&N plans to sell or scrap two of the GP10s but keep former Elkhart & Western PREX GP10 No. 1000 as a backup.

No Amtrak Long Distance Train Met FRA OT Threshold During the First Quarter of 2022

May 19, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration reported that during the first quarter of 2022 no Amtrak long-distance train met the 80 percent on-time performance mark.

The FRA report said just 16 of Amtrak’s 43 routes met the 80 percent threshold.

The agency measures on-time performance, train delays, customer service, financial performance and public benefits.

The best Amtrak route for on-time performance was the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service, which posted a rate of 95 percent. The worst was the Auto Train at 24.2 percent.

Other high performers included the Ethan Allen (93.3 percent) and Keystone Service (93.2) percent). Other low performers included the Capitol Limited (35.0 percent), and Sunset Limited (40.0 percent).

Eight long-distance trains rated at less than 50 percent with the best performance being turned in by the City of New Orleans at 79.9 percent, just below the FRA’s 80 percent threshold.

The FRA defines on time as no later than 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival time.

The first quarter report found Amtrak trains experienced 1.3 million minutes of delay during the quarter.

Freight train interference was the most common source of delay during the quarter, accounting for 299,252 minutes (22 percent) of total delay minutes. That was a 12 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2021.

Freight train interference on Union Pacific was 84,000 minutes followed by Norfolk Southern (69,116 minutes), BNSF (69,079 minutes), and CSX (54,810 minutes).

Other significant causes of delay were unused recovery time, passenger train interference and slow orders.

The FRA report said passengers rated the majority of routes (31 of 41) as 80 percent or higher in overall satisfaction.

The only route falling below 70 percent passenger satisfaction was the Auto Train.

System-wide, Amtrak earned $672 million in adjusted operating revenue and incurred $823 million in fully allocated operating expenses, achieving a cost recovery ratio of 82 percent, the FRA report said.

Routes that operated with high cost-recovery ratios include the Auto Train (131 percent), Illini/Saluki (124 percent), Northeast Regional (115 percent), and Hiawatha (114 percent).

Ridership was up 7 percent to 5.5 million in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter or 2021.

The highest ridership was reported by Northeast Regional (1,706,419 riders), Acela Express (478,441 riders), and Pacific Surfliner (349,304 riders).

The FRA report said during federal fiscal year 2021, which ended on Sept. 30, 12.4 percent of Amtrak trips included a connection to another route: 6.4 percent of Northeast Corridor trains, 16.6 percent of State-supported trains, and 17.7 percent of long distance trains.

Of all multi-segment Amtrak trips, 2 percent included a missed connection, with the highest number on the San Joaquins, Pacific Surfliner, and Southwest Chief routes.

In FY2021, Amtrak served 67,835 riders (0.56 percent of all riders) in areas not well-served by other modes of intercity transportation, “such as air or intercity buses.

Union Leaders Skeptical of Foote’s Comments

May 19, 2022

Although labor unions representing CSX appreciate some of the moves the carrier has made in recent months to improve management-employer relations, they are taking with a grain of salt recent comments made by CEO James Foote about his desire to improve the working relationship.

Trains magazine said the labor leaders it interviewed described the relationship with management as the worst it has been in decades. They were speaking about railroads generally and not CSX in particular.

Foote has spoken about the need to improve relations with workers in recent weeks and last week during a speech to the North American Rail Shippers conference he said creating better rapport with workers would be the biggest transformative change the industry could make.

Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said he was “flabbergasted” by Foote’s comments because CSX has not met with the union since January and no contract negotiations are currently scheduled.

“He’s got the tools to fix it and he’s never used them. So we’re not sure what he’s talking about,” Pierce said.

In the eyes of union leaders Foote has been sending mixed messages. During a late April hearing by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board into freight service issues, Foote said the railroad’s crew shortage problems would disappear overnight if it could use one-person crews.

According to the Trains report, labor leaders see massive layoffs and operational changes prompted by the move to the precision scheduled railroading model as a major source of tension.

Other sources of conflict include what labor sees as punitive attendance policies, stalled contract negotiations, and no pay increases since 2019.

Unions see the desire of railroads to have one-person crews as a major reason why contract talks have stalemated.

Railroad industry management has not hidden its desire to reassign most conducts to ground-based roving positions in set territories. Conductors would be responsible for multiple trains within their territories and follow them in trucks or SUVs.

Union leaders acknowledge that CSX has taken some steps toward improving its relations with labor.

It has begun offering attendance bonuses to workers to stay marked up, has softened some discipline policies and boosted pay for new conductors.

Trains quoted industry observer Todd Tranausky as saying labor relations in the railroad industry are strained.

“But there is always tension between labor and management in any industry when large changes driven by automation are on the horizon, so it should not come as a surprise,” said Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at freight forecasting firm FTR Transportation Intelligence.

The article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/labor-leaders-skeptical-of-ceo-talk-of-improving-railroads-relationship-with-rank-and-file/

CN Going Back to Basics

May 19, 2022

Canadian National CEO Tracy Robinson told an investor’s conference this week that the carrier is taking a back-to-basics approach to operations.

Speaking to the Bank of America 29th Annual Transportation Conference, she said CN is emphasizing that that trains depart from yards on on time and with the right blocks of cars.

“As we bring the schedule together, it means every car has a plan, every block has a plan, every train has a plan, the meets are all scheduled. And every customer has a plan, including the local service delivery. As we do this, we’re seeing it’s starting to work,” Robinson said.

The goal of this is to increase network speed and improve service to shippers.

Robinson said traffic flows remain different than they were before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although CN is actively seeking new business, Robinson said the railroad is more tightly coordinating its operations, marketing, and finance functions to ensure that it can handle any new business it takes on.

“You need to be intentional about that, and to build our book in such a way that we can deliver to our customers,” she said. “We want to be able to deliver what we sell.”

A story about Robinson’s speech can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/canadian-national-launches-new-focus-on-operations/