International crews are just one part of KCS plan for Laredo gateway improvements

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Kansas City Southern
LAREDO, Texas – Kansas City Southern’s plan to use international crews at its Laredo gateway, which last week drew the ire of rail labor, is just one element of a broader effort to improve operations, safety, and security at the Mexican border.

Last August, a joint U.S.-Mexican inspection facility opened in Laredo, allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to work alongside their Mexican counterparts to scan and process northbound trains.

The Joint Unified Cargo Processing Facility, situated just off the International Bridge in Laredo, streamlines the customs process and allows trains to spend less time undergoing inspection. It’s the first such facility at the U.S.-Mexican border.

KCS is working with U.S. and Mexican authorities to establish a joint facility in Nuevo Laredo, which would speed the process for southbound traffic.

Cross-border trains now change crews on the single-track span at the busiest U.S.-Mexico rail gateway. Between the crew change and the customs inspections, trains spend up to 30 minutes stopped on the bridge.

The practice blocks grade crossings in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, creating a safety hazard when pedestrians try to climb through stopped trains and a security hazard for cross-border shipments. KCS officials say “a train at rest is a train at risk,” whether it pauses in Laredo or Nuevo Laredo.

The use of international crews, combined with joint customs inspections at both sides of the border, will reduce delays, increase capacity, and boost safety and security, KCS officials have said. The bridge over the Rio Grande carries about 26 trains per day, including Union Pacific traffic interchanged with KCS de Mexico.

KCS aims to begin using international crews between its Nuevo Laredo and Sanchez yards in Mexico and its Laredo Yard as early as July 7.

Last week, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen threatened to strike at KCS, arguing the move violated labor contracts and promises to federal regulators.

KCS says it has the right to make the changes under existing labor agreements and has filed an action in federal court to prevent a strike.
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