Harrison remains confident CSX service will improve after Labor Day

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A portion of a letter from CSX Transportation to the Surface Transportation Board and signed by E. Hunter Harrison.
CSX Transportation
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – CSX Transportation CEO E. Hunter Harrison has told federal regulators that he remains confident that the railroad will provide “a markedly superior service product” under his precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Harrison outlined the railroad’s progress to date, as well as what it aims to accomplish for the rest of 2017, in a letter sent to the Surface Transportation Board on Thursday. The board had requested the letter on Aug. 14 as part of its increased monitoring of CSX in the wake of the widespread service disruptions the railroad began having last month.

Harrison said the railroad was aggressively working to address congestion and explained why CSX moved so quickly to overhaul its operations.

“Since fundamental change cannot be implemented while working from two separate operating plans, the changes occurred over a short period of time to effectively realize the benefits of the new...plan,” Harrison wrote. “Changes of this magnitude tend to give rise to temporary challenges.”

Those include congestion at key western corridor terminals since mid July, and “intermittent service issues” elsewhere on the railroad, Harrison wrote.

“We’ll continue to fine tune operations at select locations where changes were implemented with an expectation of more improved fluidity following the Labor Day holiday,” Harrison told the board.

Harrison cited five major changes undertaken since he became CEO in March, including balancing traffic, communicating with customers, converting hump yards to flat-switching facilities, making better use of assets and crews, and updating its performance metrics.

Shifting inefficient unit train traffic into the merchandise network has balanced traffic, allowing CSX to move the same amount of tonnage on fewer trains while providing daily service.

CSX is responding to customer concerns.

“Where there’s an opportunity for improvement, we do it,” Harrison wrote.

Converting hump yards in Atlanta; Hamlet, N.C.; Toledo, Ohio; Cumberland, Md.; and Louisville, Ky., to flat-switching facilities over four months reduced car handlings and improved transit times, Harrison said. CSX then turned to the southwestern part of the system and converted the hump yards at Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.; and Avon Yard in Indianapolis.

“We have since resumed humping operations at Avon to relieve regional congestion, leaving us with five active hump yards,” Harrison wrote. “The goal is to find the right balance of hump and flat yards as we pursue optimal processing efficiency.”

CSX has reviewed its use of assets like locomotives, cars, and crews and reduced each as necessary to meet demand.

The railroad’s updated performance metrics, released this week, “more accurately monitor the health and efficiency of our railroad, and hold us accountable for meeting our goals,” Harrison said.

For the balance of the year, CSX will focus on safety, service, network fluidity, optimizing asset utilization, and improving financial performance.

“We’re placing a particular emphasis on our local operating teams as we instill a habit of proactive communication and problem-solving with our customers,” Harrison wrote.

The railroad will continue to monitor its network to improve the flow of freight.

“CSX will progress the evaluation of hump terminal operations,” Harrison wrote. “We have and will continue to remap traffic flows by closely analyzing connections between merchandise road trains, yard jobs, and locals.”

CSX will “fulfill customer requirements, decrease congestion, speed up the network, and process cars faster for the benefit of our customers,” Harrison wrote.

It will also reduce its operating ratio, control costs, and eliminate “underperforming assets,” Harrison wrote.

Shipper groups have complained to the STB and Congress regarding service disruptions on CSX, which have caused plant shutdowns, production slowdowns, and expensive diversions of freight to trucks.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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