The Association of American Railroads on Thursday reported continued "slight" improvement in U.S. rail carloadings for the week ended July 25, though traffic remained down from the same period last year.
Railroads originated 273,943 carloads in the latest week, down 17.4% from 2008. Intermodal loads added up to 193,332 trailers or containers, down 17.9%. Total volume for the week ending July 25 was estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles, down 16.3%.
U.S. carriers reported cumulative volume for this year's first 29 weeks of 7,610,311 carloads, down 19.1% from 2008; 5,376,118 trailers or containers, down 17.2 %; and total volume of 809.7 billion ton-miles, down 18.1%.
Canadian railroads reported 61,503 carloads for the latest week, down 18.4% from last year, and 41,902 trailers or containers, down 17.1%. For the year to date, Canadian roads reported volume of 1,728,034 carloads, down 23.8% from 2008, and 1,163,185 trailers or containers, down 16.2%.
Mexican railroads originated 11,541 carloads, down 13.8% from the same week last year, and 5,779 trailers or containers, down 15.0%. Cumulative volume for the first 29 weeks of 2009 was 329,211 carloads, down 14.7%, and 139,425 trailers or containers, down 21.8%.
Total North American rail carload volume for the first 29 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting railroads was down 19.8% from last year, and intermodal traffic was down 17.1%.
Canadian Pacific Thursday noted a one-time gain from the sale of a share of the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership boosted it second-quarter net income. Net profit rose to C$157.3 million ($145 million), or 93 Canadian cents a share, for the quarter, compared with C$154.7 million, or C$1, in the comparable 2008 quarter.
Excluding items, earnings dropped to 59 Canadian cents a share from 97 Canadian cents a share a year earlier. That still beat analyst EPS expectations of 38 Canadian cents, before exceptions.
"The recession continues to have a significant impact on our business and although freight volumes appearto have stabilized, we have not yet seen a sustained recovery in traffic," Chief Executive Fred Green said in a statement. Freight volume fell 18%, CP said. Offsetting that to a degree were lower operating costs, down 10% to C$225.8 million compared with the second quarter of 2008.
CP said it would increase its 2009capital program spending to between C$800 million and C$820 million, up substantially from the previous outlook of C$720 million to C$740 million. CP shares climbed 9% in Thursday morning trading.
Kansas City Southern Thursday reported that second-quarter net income declined more than 86% to $6.7 million, 7 cents per share, compared with $50.5 million, or 56 cents a share, in the second quarter of 2008. That fell short of Wall Street analyst projections of 8 cents a share.
Revenue also fell short of projections of $357.9 million for the quarter; KCS notched revenue of $341.3 million, down from $486.2 million in the year-ago period. The railroad attributed some of the decline to lower fuel prices, resulting in a 72% drop in fuel surcharges.
Wall Street traders ignored the missed projections, sending shares of the company up 4.4% to $20.52 in late morning trading; KCS stock was up more than 6% Thursday afternoon.
“In the second quarter, KCS continued to demonstrate its ability to combat declining volumes with persistent efforts to improve operating efficiencies and to keep costs down," said Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst and <i>Railway Age</i> Contributing Editor Jason Seidl, who called the railroad’s long term prospects “attractive.” Siedl also said KCS’s new Victoria-Rosenberg line in Texas “will eventually lead to solid long term growth.”
“With the rail industry still trying to cope with the most drastic volume declines in recent history, we believe management will continue to focus its efforts on cutting costs and reducing capital expenditures,” Seidl added. “However, despite the significant spending reduction, KCS announced that it did complete its Victoria-Rosenberg line in the second quarter as it had projected. While many may question the need for expansionary capital in a recessionary environment, this line should help reduce costs and improve service for the railroad’s burgeoning cross border intermodal business.”
Greenwich, Conn.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Thursday reported second-quarter net income of $7.4 million, or diluted earnings per share of 20 cents, less than half the net income of $15.4 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, in the second quarter of 2008.
GWI's income from continuing operations in the second quarter was $8.1 million compared with income from continuing operations of $16.2 million, in the second quarter of 2008.
The company said revenue fell $22.7 million, or 14.8%, to $130.1 million, compared with $152.7 million in the second quarter of 2008. Same-railroad revenue decreased $37.7 million, or 24.7%, partially offset by revenue of $15.1 million from acquisitions.
GWI announced last month that subsidiary Huron Central Railway Inc. intended to discontinue operations in October. As a result, GWI said its results in the second quarter included a non-cash write-down of HCRY's non-current assets of $6.7 million as well as restructuring and related charges of $2.3 million (net after-tax impact of $5.4 million, or $0.15 per diluted share).
John C. Hellmann, GWI president and CEO, said, "Our financial results for the second quarter were consistent with the revised guidance that we provided in early June. Our revenues in the second quarter of 2009 proved to be 6% weaker than the first quarter of 2009, and we consequently implemented additional cost reductions. We now have 13% of our locomotive fleet parked and 10% of our employees furloughed. These and other cost-cutting initiatives have enabled us to maintain a core operating ratio in line with last year."
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Wednesday released both its 2010 Preliminary Budget and proposed Four-Year Financial Plan for 2010-2013. The MTA Board will not consider a final budget until December, but MTA says the release allows for an extended period of public discussion about the MTA's finances and budget proposals.
The 2010 budget, as released, includes no service cuts or fare increases beyond those already planned, MTA said, adding that projected cash balances were $29 million in 2009, $39 million in 2010, and $1 million in 2011. “Manageable” deficits are projected for 2012 and 2013. MTA also cited “significant” spending restraints contributing to save $64 million in 2010. These savings grow to $279 million by 2013.
MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said: "We are grateful to Governor Paterson and the Legislature for their strong commitment to the transit system during this current economic downturn. Meeting the MTA's fiduciary responsibilities while sparing our customers from the drastic and painful measures proposed earlier this year will help us keep to our mission of providing safe, dependable, and affordable public transportation."
MTA Interim Executive Director and CEO Helena E. Williams said: "Today's presentation kicks off six months of public discussion before a final budget is approved in December. Engaging in a productive dialogue with our customers and stakeholders before a final plan is presented to the board assures maximum transparency throughout the entire process."
The financial plan anticipates a continued falloff in real estate tax revenue and ridership due to recession, also includes the 2009 Mid-Year Forecast which reflects changes from the February 2009 plan resulting from the passage of legislation to stabilize the MTA's short-term finances. As discussed with state legislative leaders in Albany, the plan includes a 7.5% fare increase in both 2011 and 2013.
More information on the plan is available online at www.mta.info. MTA said the complete plan will be online “in the coming days.”
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell says the Nutmeg State will expand a planned signal upgrade of Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury Branch to cover the entire 24 miles of the line. Connecticut will use federal stimulus funds to do so; the entire project is projected to cost $53 million, including $30 million in stimulus funds.
Rell said the original plan called for installing Centralized Train Control on just eight miles of the branch, between Norwalk and Wilton, Conn. The Federal Transit Administration already has approved the project, which will allow Metro-North’s Control Center in Grand Central Terminal to oversee operations on the entire branch.
“Upgrading this system will ultimately mean better, safer, more reliable service for the thousands of commuters who depend on the Danbury Branch to get to and from work,” Rell said. “That is key to our effort to encourage greater use of public transportation and reduce congestion on ourroads and highways. Improving the commuting and business climate improves our economy.”
Metro-North forces will perform the initial work, with a contract expected to be issued to a private-sector contractor in 2010 by Connecticut’s Department of Transportation. Completion is expected by the end of 2011.
The Danbury Branch runs from its namesake city to South Norwalk, where it joins with Metro-North’s New Haven Line.
Norfolk Southern is taking steps to ensure that its stored locomotives are ready to roll when needed.
"At the end of June, we had just over 600 locomotives stored, about 16% of our fleet," EVP and Chief Operating Officer Mark D. Manion said in a second-quarter earnings presentation Tuesday. "In June we started to reduce the number of locomotives stored from a high of 700 at the end of May. This reduction represents, in part, a need for more locomotives to handle an increase in coal trains from May to June, but more important, to support a new effort to cycle our stored locomotives."
"In the past when storing locomotives it has been for periods of time less than a year," Manion noted. "With the uncertainty of the economy, we are taking additional preventative maintenance action to ensure that all of our stored power remains in good working order. So, when demand justifies their return to service, we can do so smoothly and with minimal delay."
Manion also said that at the end of June NS had 35,000 freight cars stored. "This includes about 28,000 cars owned or leased by Norfolk Southern as well as cars from Norfolk Southern's allocation of stored national pools managed by TTX for automotive and intermodal, as well as TTX flats and some boxcar equipment. It also includes about 900 cars stored under car-hire arrangements with various short lines."
When full demand for this equipment will materializes is still uncertain. But in another presentation, Norfolk Southern EVP and Chief Marketing Officer Donald W. Seale said that that while "the duration of the recession and the shape of the recovery are still question marks ... we are encouraged that the erosion of our traffic volumes that we have seen in the past eight or nine months seems to have stabilized. It does feel like we've reached a bottom."
Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger told the the Midwest High-Speed Rail Summit in Chicago Tuesday that "striking the right balance between passenger and freight rail expansion is key to the success of high speed rail in America."
“America’s freight railroads support the goal of increased passenger rail investment,” Hamberger (pictured at left) said. “It’s good for our economy and the environment when more people and goods move faster by rail.”
He pointed out the privately owned freight rail network is "the literal foundation for high speed rail in America."
“We are critical stakeholders that need to be engaged from the very beginning of project planning and development. Passenger and freight efforts to grow and expand must complement, not compromise one another,” Hamberger said.
Attending the the summit were Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn, Iowa Gov. Chester Culver, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Missouri Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.
Hamberger said each high speed rail project needs to stake into consideration "volume of freight traffic, terrain, number of grade crossings, and track configuration. These issues will help determine the feasibility of operating high speed passenger trains on the freight rail network."
Hamberger stressed that agreements addressing liability,compensation, and increased maintenance need to be approved prior to project planning and development.
Add Norfolk Southern to those Class I railroads exceeding Wall Street expectations in the second quarter. NS late Tuesday reported second-quarter net income of $247 million, or 66 cents per diluted share, compared with $453 million, or $1.18 per diluted share, for the second quarter of 2008. That exceeded by two cents per share Wall Street analyst EPS estimates of 64 cents.
NS said second-quarter operating revenue was $1.9 billion, down 33% from the comparable 2008 period, mostly due to a 26% reduction in traffic volume and also lower fuel-related revenue.
“Second-quarter results obviously reflect the impact of the recession," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. "However, the measures we are taking to control expenses while maintaining our industry-leading service levels have enabled us to post solid second-quarter results, while at the same time we continue to invest in projects that position us for the eventual economic recovery."
Railway operating expenses for the quarter were $1.4 billion, down 29% from the same period a year ago. Norfolk Southern’s operating ratio was 74.8%, up from 71.1% during the second-quarter of 2008.
After NS released its figures, New York investment bank Dahlman Rose & Co., in a statement, noted that “when removing a $21 million favorable adjustment to Materials and Other operating expenses related to settlement of a multi-year state tax dispute, EPS from continuing operations came in at $0.63, in line with consensus” and not exceeding it. Dahlman Rose also said NS “continues to implement cost control measures as evident in the sharp declines in operating expenses and the reduction of employee count.”
Morgan Stanley analysts commented that Norfok Southern’s “core operations fell short of consensus estimates,” but added, “That said, cost control was strong and NS performed remarkably well in the face of unprecedented weakness in some of its highest margin segments.”
In a closely watched captive-shipper rate case, the Surface Transportation Board has granted an estimated $100 million in reparations and rate reductions over the next 10 years from the Union Pacific to Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. (OG&E).
"UP has hauled roughly six million tons of coal per year from Wyoming's southern Powder River Basin to OG&E's Muskogee Station power plant in Fort Gibson, Okla. under contracts between the parties," said the STB in announcing its decision. "But after the latest contract expired on Dec. 31, 2008, UP and OG&E could not agree on a new contractual rate. So OG&E asked UP for common carrier rates, which the utility began paying in January 2009. OG&E then challenged the new rates in a complaint to the STB.
"Both OG&E and UP agreed that the Muskogee Station is captive to UP, meaning that there is no effective transportation alternative available to OG&E other than using UP. And both parties agreed that the January 2009 common carrier rates should not exceed 180% of the variable costs of providing that transportation. The central question put to the STB in this case centered on how to calculate the 185% revenue-to-variable cost ratio.
"The STB found that the amount of relief owed to OG&E for the first two quarters of 2009 ranged from $1.66 to $1.91 per ton in shipper-supplied rail cars, depending on the particular mine origin. The decision also ordered UP to set common carrier rates for the next 10 years at the 180% of variable-costs levels. Assuming historical volumes of 6 million tons a year, the relief to OG&E will likely exceed $10 million a year for the next 10 years."
The decision is available for viewing and downloading, via the Board's website at www.stb.gov, under"E-LIBRARY," then under "Decisions & Notices," beneath the date "7/24/09."