Federal regulators ask CSX to explain ongoing service failures

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An eastbound CSX train traverses the Belt Railway of Chicago at 80th Street in Chicago in February 2016.
Marshall W. Beecher
WASHINGTON – CSX Transportation’s network performance measures are improving. But service to customers is not necessarily following suit. That concerns federal regulators, who, on Thursday, asked CSX to explain how it will provide consistent and reliable service.

The Surface Transportation Board also strongly encouraged CSX to continue to participate in the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office, which helps smooth traffic through the continent’s busiest rail gateway.

“The board continues to hear concerns related to CSX service challenges or inadequate service, particularly about unsatisfactory ‘last mile’ performance and lack of communication regarding changes to service before they occur,” commissioners Ann Begeman and Deb Miller wrote to CEO E. Hunter Harrison on Thursday, before his medical leave of absence was announced.

“While we recognize that several key performance measures have shown noticeable improvement in recent weeks, other metrics, such as car order fulfillment and local service performance, have lagged when compared to 2016 and first quarter 2017,” they wrote.

Acting CEO James Foote on Friday morning cited CSX’s improving performance measures, noting that trains are moving faster and cars are spending less time in yards than they did in 2016.

But the STB has asked CSX to explain its lack of progress in improving car-order fulfillment. In light of missed switches and poor coordination with customers, regulators also asked CSX why it can’t match or exceed local service performance from 2016.

Also sought: Information on progress CSX is making on developing trip plans for individual carloads, as well as efforts to improve communication with shippers.

CSX stumbled this summer amid an accelerated rollout of Harrison’s Precision Scheduled Railroading operating model, prompting shipper complaints and increased scrutiny from the STB.

Last month Harrison said he was proud of how the railroad was running. And he said that concerns over CSX’s service were overblown and were being used as an excuse for shipper groups to lobby for regulatory changes that would hurt railroads.

Harrison told the STB at an Oct. 11 listening session that he was considering pulling out of the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office, which the Class I railroads and terminal lines use to monitor everything from yard car inventories and maintenance-of-way planning to weather alerts and service priorities.

As part of a decision involving CSX operations on the former Canadian National Elsdon Line, the board ordered CSX to confirm whether it was still a part of the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office. If CSX is still part of the group, the board ordered the railroad to provide 60 days’ notice of its intent to pull out of the organization.

A CSX spokesman did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the STB letter or decision.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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