Rail Traffic Up, Canadians Tops On Operations

Rail volumes for the week ended February 19th increased 11.2% over the same period a year earlier. The increase was fuelled by a 23% rise in intermodal traffic and a 5% increase in commodity traffic, says equity research firm Morgan Stanley.

International intermodal traffic on Western railroads is affected by the Chinese New Year, which occurred later in 2005 than in 2005. The positive intermodal performance in mid-February is partly a reflection of this. The impact of the lunar festival will be reflected in intermodal traffic in weeks to come.

On the subject of operational performance, average network speed declined 3.4% in the same reporting period and terminal dwell time eroded a further 1%.

Canadian railroads reported improvements in both average train speed and terminal swell time. Canadian National’s average train speed increased 7.9% in week seven when compared with the same period a year earlier. Year-to-date train speed improved 2.3%. Canadian Pacific saw a 4.7% rise for the week and 4.1% year to date.

U.S. Class 1 railroads each saw average train speed decline. Union Pacific slowed 3.2% for the week or 6.1% year to date (YTD). At Norfolk Southern, speeds dropped 5.4% for the week and 6.5% YTD. CSX saw a 5.9% decline for the week or 6.9% YTD. Burlington Northern Santa Fe dropped 6.2% for the week and 9.5% YTD. And, Kansas City Southern fell 16.3% for the week or 10.5% YTD.

Only Norfolk Southern and CSX increased terminal dwell time in week seven.

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