October 6, 2017

CSX touts improved operating metrics to validate Harrison's precision model

Train velocity up 16 percent since mid-July, dwell times down 15 percent since summer, railroad says.

By DC Velocity Staff

Eastern railroad CSX Corp. said late yesterday that its operating metrics continue to improve, which validates President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison's strategy of precision scheduled railroading, which Harrison implemented when he joined the railroad in March and which has been criticized by shippers and federal regulators for causing service problems.

Jacksonville-based CSX said that train velocity across its 21,000-mile network has increased by 16 percent since mid-July, and is now higher than the 2016 full-year average.

Average "terminal dwell," or the number of hours that cars spend in terminals between their origins and destinations, is currently at 11.2 hours, down more than 15 percent since the summer, CSX said. Average dwell times are lower than their full-year average, according to the railroad. CSX reports its own operating metrics rather than submit them to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) for publication, as do other carriers.

The precision railroading model is designed to add fluidity to a rail network by pinpointing exactly how and when trains move from start to finish. This enables the operation of fewer, but longer trains moving freight faster. It is also supported by fewer "hump" yards--huge, artificially built facilities that use the force of gravity to switch isolated cars onto tracks for the building of trains.

However, the model ran afoul of the complex CSX network, where trains run shorter distances through congested areas, or through small, one-stop-light-type towns where trains would be required to slow their speeds. The implementation resulted in service delays, which angered customers and led the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal agency that regulates the railroads, to direct CSX to submit detailed plans showing how it planned to improve service.

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