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Will the UPRR Deliver?

The Union Pacific Railroad recently announced it was shipping 660 containers from Los Angeles to the Atlantic coast via the Panama Canal to alleviate congestion, and that help from other railroads wasn't an option. It now has second thoughts

UP has had a bad summer, and a bad start on the fall. The summer saw three fatal accidents, which prompted a safety investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration. The fall started with a meeting in Houston with irate customers who wondered why their shipments didn't make it through on time. Many had had work stoppages due to delayed UP trains. UP blamed congestion on the summer accidents which damaged track, and said things would improve after September 16th, when the former SP was fully integrated with the UP's operations.

September 16th came and went, yet the bad press kept on. The BNSF railroad, which exchanges a lot of cars with UP, also suffers delays, and offered to help. In that case, the Surface Transportation Board would have to temporarily extend BNSF's trackage rights. No way, said UP, that won't help.

Let's charter a big ship, that's a much better idea, the UP maintained. The ship would run from Los Angeles to Savannah on the Atlantic Coast with 660 containers, in twice the amount of time it would normally take a train. It is unclear how much this would accomplish in letting UP catch up with the backlog.

It is also unclear how UP customers reacted to this. It is clear, though, that they did not solicit the services of a marine shipping company when they signed on with UP. And the idea never became more than an idea.

UP has now regained their wits and on Wednesday filed a plan with the STB to have other railroads move 40 000 cars off its network. Other measures include rerouting trains past congested terminals, reducing the number of engines on each train and suspending some coal trains.

Source: ABC News

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