Rails Show Positive Signs

Average train speed on North American railroads dropped by 1.6% in Week 51; an improvement over the fourth-quarter trend, which indicated trains moved 5% slower than in the same period of 2004.

Even more encouraging, terminal dwell times dropped by 4.8% for the week (when compared with the same week in 2004). For the 51 weeks reported thus far, 2005 saw a 2.9% decline in terminal dwell times.

Traffic numbers are affected by the Christmas holiday, which fell in Week 51 of 2004 and in Week 52 of 2005. That said, traffic improved 23% in Week 51 of 2005. Pending reporting for the final week, the four-week traffic trend, up 3.9%, may be more telling. Intermodal traffic was showing an 8.4% increase for the period as compared with a 6.2% increase for the full 51 weeks reported thus far in 2005. The intermodal increases helped bolster commodity numbers, which indicated an overall rise of just 0.8% for the four weeks and year to date.

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