by Gilbert B Norman
From one who was employed in the railroad industry during its "darkest hour' namely during the 70's when one third of the mileage was operating under bankruptcy protection, it is heartening to read an article such as appearing in Today's Wall Street Journal. I think reporter Daniel Machalaba brings good insight to the issues confronting the industry today. The Journal's site is by subscription, but here nevertheless is a brief passage from Mr. Machalaba's reportage:
- MULVANE Kan. -- The chief executive of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. wasn't happy when he found out during a visit here last month that a stretch of new railroad tracks being installed to help ease freight congestion might not start carrying trains until September.
"August," Matthew Rose snapped back, in a message to employees of the second-largest U.S. railroad by revenue to speed up work on the eight-mile-long project to meet their boss's deadline.
The push shows how much BNSF and other major U.S. railroads have riding on improving notorious bottlenecks in their networks in time for the next peak shipping season, which begins this month and builds through the summer and fall in an effort to stock shelves before the holiday shopping season. Still, some customers worry that current expansion projects still won't be enough to ensure timely deliveries.
Cargo shipments from Asia to the U.S. have been growing by about 10% a year, and much of the freight that arrives by ship and is headed for the Midwest or East Coast is transferred to trains for the final leg of its journey. Meanwhile, a lack of drivers is causing some trucking carriers to shift shipments to trains, and demand is surging for coal that moves by rail to electric utilities. Trains now carry 41% of U.S. freight as measured in ton-miles, or one ton moved one mile, up from 35% in 1986, according to the Association of American Railroads, a trade group.