Roy Blanchard is principal of The Blanchard Company and a Contributing Editor to Railway Age.
The goal of capital expenditures is to link investments to the quality of the transportation product, generating increased customer satisfaction. Perhaps no railroad does it better than Norfolk Southern.
Union Pacific's annual gathering of short lines in late October was all about giving short lines access to more tools, neatly arranged for ease of access, to bring more business to the railroad.
Norfolk Southern's 30th Anniversary Year was helped along by a blow-out Annual Short Line meeting in Roanoke, Va. More than 200 members of the short line community attended, representing most of the 250 short lines that have direct connections with NS, along with another 140 NS names, including President and CEO Wick Moorman, Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion, and Chief Commercial Officer Don Seale. And I came away feeling a change in the air.
Pennsylvania's Lycoming Valley Railroad will be the beneficiary of a new industry track construction project near Muncy, Pa. The project involves building 2,300 feet of new track and restoring another 1,800 feet of existing track.
Last month I wrote about how paper and other single-carload commodities were down year-over-year, and the impact that trend is having on Class II and III railroads in particular. One reason these downturns hit the smaller roads the hardest is because they do not have unit train volumes to offset short-term losses in single-car shipments. Another is the unevenness of service quality and consistency that too often occurs in single-car shipment lanes. Happily, such does not have to be the case.
A question that’s been bugging me of late has to with what the short line scene will look like in 2016. I’m looking strictly at the commodities where most non-Class I carriers earn their bread and butter — the so-called merchandise sector, that is, everything but intermodal, coal, and automotive, from parts to finished vehicles. And the trends are not encouraging.
The 23d Annual CSX Short Line Workshop was yet another standard-setter in terms of content, delivery, and overall message. The emphasis throughout was more on customer service than the mechanical aspects of running a railroad—a welcome change. And I think CFO Fred Eliasson summed it up best when he said to the group, "A strong service product is the foundation for achieving price, productivity and growth targets."
Norfolk Southern is increasingly an intermodal railroad. As of Feb. 18, nearly half of total revenue units year-to-date — 412,077 out of 911,473 or 48.6% — were intermodal boxes (an intermodal container or trailer is one AAR revenue unit as is one conventional carload). A year ago intermodal was 43.7% of the total. Where’s it coming from?