roberttosh wrote:The only way CSX would consider selling a main trunk route would be if there's a way of diverting traffic, as is the case with the line from Cincinnati to Atlanta through Knoxville where traffic can be re-routed via Nashville. Ditto for the Florida panhandle route between Flomaton and Baldwin where trains can be re-routed via Montgomery and Manchester. There is no such diversion route available for the B&A. The other sale driver is for low density lines or ones with a dying industry base, such as the Clinchfield or the former B&O through Grafton (Coal). The B&A still handles up to 16 trains a day, is a major corridor for high profile intermodal/auto traffic and at the end of the day serves a region (New England) with a concentrated population pushing 15 million people, which made it a very key part of the Conrail takeover. It would seem to me that the B&A in no way shape or form would be a candidate for a line sale - at least West of Worcester.
I think there's some chance that CSX will sell east of Selkirk at some point, but, I think the odds favor doing something much less drastic for those reasons you state regarding the attractiveness of the market in addition to the fact that it is one of the longest hauls in the east, has decent balance, nearly all of the market's premium traffic, not only in intermodal but also carload traffic, and, good prospects for keeping it that way with full overhead clearance and connection to a high-speed-and- capacity network. Additionally, there's a possible prospect that further capacity-enhancing deals could be made with the Commonwealth for sale of the Worcester-Springfield portion of the Boston Line ala Framingham-Worcester. If the past is prologue, then obviously CSX's early 21st Century look at selling everything east of Selkirk didn't even lead to a long-rumored exit in eastern MA, so what does that tell us?
What drives the chance for sale east of Selkirk, however, might be New England's mixed strategic importance as a middle-sized, slower growing market representing less than 10% of total revenue for CSX up against other opportunities and coupled with the need for speed to reach a rock bottom operating ratio, appearing likely abated with EHH's death, or to generate cash or make the company more attractive for important strategic capital investment that builds capacity for faster growing and bigger markets also sharing New England's attributes. Or, for a long-range proactive, defensive move against dark storm clouds on railroading's horizon which in turn drives the retention hurdle rate higher similar to what would occur in a rush to the lowest possible operating ratio. However, as other folks have also pointed out, unless they completely exited the ex-NYC east of Cleveland, it's hard to believe they would sell east of Selkirk unless they thought they would (through competitive advantage) or could (through agreement) keep this traffic coming their way.