Service crew

Rail Roundup: Members of Congress urge STB to address rail service

Congressional leaders back shippers’ calls to improve freight rail service

A bipartisan group of members of Congress are concerned about how subpar freight rail service is affecting the fertilizer industry and the ability of the agriculture sector as a whole to compete in global markets.

In a letter to the Surface Transportation Board on Wednesday, 51 members of Congress representing U.S. states urged the board to address near-term challenges and use “practical updates and changes” to ensure improvement. of rail service.

“At a time when the global fertilizer supply and global agricultural production are severely disrupted, the imposition of shipping restrictions on fertilizers and grains, as recently proposed by Union Pacific, will lead to major disruptions in the supply chain, will hurt American farmers and dramatically exacerbate the food crisis,” the letter said, referring to Union Pacific’s (NYSE:UNP) attempt earlier this spring to reduce the number of private railcars on its network to to reduce congestion.

“We must ensure that essential products reach essential industries and workers, such as American farmers, who are essential to feeding our nation and the world. Food is a matter of national security and we must treat it as such,” the letter reads.

The letter said the board held a two-day hearing in late April to hear from the railways, shippers and unions about what may be the root causes of the deterioration in rail service in early 2022 as well as what could be viable. , potential solutions.

The letter also mentioned some of the testimonials from shipper groups in March and April, including the Fertilizer Institute and the National Grain and Feed Association. Both groups told the board of the high costs that members have incurred due to delays and congestion.

“By imposing onerous restrictions on shippers without consulting customers, Class I carriers can run the risk of jeopardizing family farms and increasing the cost of food to consumers. …

While we respect the challenges of running a major railroad, communication is key when

take action to make necessary improvements, including imposing service reductions,” the letter reads. “As we seek solutions to address today’s supply chain challenges, carriers and the STB must also be mindful of our nation’s critical commodities and public interest.

Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department pressed congressional senators to redefine the Common Carrier Obligation, a federal law that requires railroads to provide railroad service to customers.

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DOT: Localities can apply for federal grants to eliminate railroad crossings

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday more than $573 million will be made available to communities seeking to eliminate railroad crossings through a new grant program.

The Grade Crossing Elimination Program is intended to fund projects that create grade separations, such as overpasses and underpasses, as well as lane closures and relocations. Projects may also relate to improving railroad crossing warning devices if they are related to a separation or relocation project, according to the DOT.

The Federal Railroad Administration will review and evaluate proposals based on several factors: their potential to improve safety by eliminating railroad crossings or improving existing road-railway crossings; their ability to increase access to emergency services; and their ability to reduce emissions, deliver economic benefits; and hire locally. At least 20% of the funds available are intended for rural and tribal areas.

The funding notice can be found on the FRA website. It will also be published in the Federal Register.

Funding for the grant program comes from the recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Act.

“This week’s incidents in Missouri and California have underscored the tragic consequences of train-vehicle collisions occurring across the country,” the DOT said.

According to the DOT, there were about 2,148 crossing incidents in 2021, resulting in 236 fatalities and 662 injuries.

Eliminating railroad crossings could also help reduce railroad crossing delays in local communities, the DOT said.

According to reports, the incidents in California and Missouri occurred at railroad crossings without lights or mechanical arms.

In rural Missouri on Monday, an Amtrak train hit a dump truck at a railroad crossing, causing the train to derail. The derailment killed four people, including the driver of the truck. Amtrak said it is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board. Meanwhile, the truck driver’s widow sued Amtrak and BNSF, the track owner, over the incident, while Amtrak and BNSF (NYSE:BRK.B) sued the truck driver’s company. Passengers on the train are also reportedly considering filing a complaint.

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CN presents capital investment program for 4 more US states

Canadian railroad CN has announced yet more plans to invest in its U.S. network, this time explaining how it plans to invest $195 million between four states in 2022.

In Iowa, CN plans to invest $20 million to maintain and improve the state’s network, including replacing 14 miles of track, installing 9,000 new railroad ties railway and reconstruction of 14 crossing surfaces, in addition to maintenance work on bridges, culverts, signal systems and other track infrastructure. CN has spent more than $150 million in the state over the past five years, where it operates 574 miles of track.

In Illinois, CN will spend $55 million on capital improvements. Its maintenance program will include the replacement of more than 4 miles of rail track, the installation of 50,000 railroad ties and the reconstruction of 19 crossing surfaces, among other maintenance projects. CN operates 905 miles of railroad in the United States, where it has spent more than $350 million on capital improvements over the past five years.

In Mississippi, CN plans to invest $65 million in capital improvements in 2022. Its maintenance program includes replacing 5 miles of track, installing 130,000 rail ties and rebuilding 14 crossing surfaces. The railroad has spent more than $300 million on capital and maintenance projects in Mississippi, where it operates 575 miles of railroad.

In Minnesota, CN plans to spend $55 million in 2022 to replace 5 miles of rail track, install more than 105,000 railroad ties and rebuild 14 crossing surfaces, among other maintenance and improvement projects. of the network. CN has invested more than $300 million over the past five years in Minnesota, where it operates 426 miles of track.

Over the past week, CN (NYSE: CNI) announced how much it plans to spend on capital expenditures on its network in Canada and the United States. Taking into account the most recent announcements, CN’s capital investments will total nearly $1.98 billion in 2022.

In 2021, CN (NYSE: CNI) spent $2.25 billion on capital expenditures, according to its 2021 annual report.

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Canadian Pacific signs collective agreements with its Eastern and Midwestern subsidiaries

Some shortline railways that are subsidiaries of Canadian Pacific have agreed to ratify their collective agreements with the railway.

Branch lines are Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern South (DM&E) and the Canadian and U.S. operations of Central Maine & Quebec (CMQ), according to CP (NYSE: CP). The properties are located in Quebec, Maine, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.

The latest agreement provides for higher hourly wages for the approximately 430 employees. Union representatives were the United Steel Workers Local 1976 at CMQ Canada, the SMART-Transportation Division at CMQ US, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen representing all train and locomotive employees at DM&E South.

“CP welcomes the ratification of these three recently negotiated agreements which provide wage increases to hundreds of our dedicated employees,” Mark Redd, CP’s executive vice president of operations, said in a statement. “We continue to work productively with all of our union partners to reach long-term agreements that meet the needs of CP’s growing business and our industry-leading railroaders.

Major CP crew bases that fall under the agreements include Ottumwa, Davenport, Marquette, and Mason City, Iowa; Kansas City, Missouri; Savannah, Illinois; Brownville Junction, Maine; and Farnham, Quebec.

CP also said it is hiring for various positions in all of the locations listed above and some have immediate openings.

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