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Union Pacific Strikes Again

The Big Engine That Couldn't

The problems at Union Pacific again took a turn for the worse in March. The company announced in the beginning of the month that blizzards and heavy rains have debilitated the network and that they may be forced to stop accepting shipments.

And on Tuesday the 24th, UP announced that anyone wanting to ship things to Mexico via the UP was out of luck. There's no more room on the UP, except for automotive products. And they blamed the problems on someone else! A derailment on the Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana was at the root of the problem, UP said. "This announcement is an attempt to divert attention away from UP's on-going rail crisis in the United States," TFM retorted.

On the 17th, UP was sued by one of its biggest customers, Dow Chemical. "Dow is very frustrated with the serious disruption in rail service that continues after nine months and the resulting strain this puts on the organization to maintain normal business operations. We look to Union Pacific to pay our damages in full and to re-establish reliable rail service, so that we can restore our good working relationship," they said in their press release.

On the same day, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers accused UP of putting drivers on routes they didn't have any experience with. Two days later, the Federal Railroad Administration said that UP had been certifying drivers as being familiar with lines they had only travelled part of.

A source to Erik's Rail News notes similar tendencies. UP either did not take seriously or ignored problems reported by SP people. This pertains to incompatible computer systems, a problem discovered way back in 1996, and still not fixed. Here follows a direct quote from the retired SP employee:

"At the height of all the congestion, a train dispatcher, trained for only a certain corridor, went to work thinking that he would be on that position only, but was told to work another. He of course protested. But he was told either to work it or go home, and not come back! Three more long trains had to be held up the line. The destination was an already congested yard..."

After almost a year of working together with UP, the Federal Railroad Administration has demonstrated that the situation is completely unacceptable. Its chief, Jolene Molitoris, has said she wants tighter control over mergers to ensure that the railroads have adequate staffing and smoother operations after their mergers.

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