CSX Transportation says it’s ready for fall peak

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WASHINGTON — CSX Transportation’s trains are now moving faster and freight cars are spending less time in yards than they did last year, railroad executives told federal regulators on Monday.

CSX officials say that after two months of improvement, terminal dwell is now lower than the full-year average for 2016. Average train speed, which has climbed slowly for six weeks, also exceeds the 2016 average.

Transit times for merchandise carloads have returned to a “normal range,” CSX officials say, and are lower than before CEO E. Hunter Harrison began implementing his precision scheduled railroading operating plan in March.

“Significant operating improvements during [the] third quarter put CSX on a solid foundation for fall peak,” CSX told the Surface Transportation Board.

Customer backlogs are down more than 50 percent from the peak this summer, CSX says, and now represent less than 1 percent of daily originations and less than 0.2 percent of active cars online.   

But on-time performance remains subpar. At 67 percent, on-time arrivals are roughly the same as they were for the full-year average of 2016.

High on-time performance is a critical element of precision scheduled railroading due in part to its emphasis on block-swapping. If trains are late, the blocks of cars they carry may miss their scheduled connections and could incur delays that can reach 24 hours.

Shippers say CSX is making uneven progress at improving its operations. Some have reported significantly lower transit times and greater reliability, while others say CSX service has declined, with longer transit times and large variability in arrivals as well as delivery of empty cars.

Harrison says precision scheduled railroading will ultimately produce faster, more reliable service.
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