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U.S. Rail Traffic Increases in November

December 7th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for November 2016 was 2,638,197 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.1 percent or 29,735 carloads and intermodal units compared with November 2015.

November 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,319,008, an increase of 0.4 percent, or 5,406 carloads, compared to November of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were up 1.7 percent or 14,688 carloads compared to November 2015.

Intermodal traffic for November totaled 1,319,189 containers and trailers, up 24,329 units, or 1.9 percent, compared to last November.

Eleven of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with November of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included grain, up 18.6 percent, or 20,209 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 2.5 percent, or 2,714 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.9 percent, or 2,829 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 15.4 percent, or 9,813 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts declined 3.5 percent, or 3,134 carloads. Coal was down 2 percent, or 9,282 carloads.

AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray remarked, “There are glimmers of hope in rail traffic data in November, with carloads and intermodal totals both up over last year — something that hasn’t happened for carloads in 22 months and for intermodal in nine months.”

“Hopefully, these results are indicators of continuing future growth for the manufacturing economy, for trade, and for rail traffic. It appears that economic fundamentals are trending toward more positive results than have been seen in the recent past,” added Gray.

For the week ending December 3, 2016, an increase of 2 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 53,130.

For the week, there were 274,329 carloads, an increase of 0.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 278,801 containers and trailers, up 3.2 percent compared to 2015.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Grain had the highest increase, up 8.5 percent, with a total 25,002 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 11,504, a drop of 15.3 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending December 3, 2016, was 721,875 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent.

For the first 48 weeks of 2016, total U.S. rail traffic was 24,601,839 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.8 percent, or 1,517,685 carloads and intermodal units from the same time period in 2015. U.S. carloads totaled 12,123,218, a drop of 9 percent. Intermodal containers and trailers totaled 12,478,621 units, down 2.5 percent compared with the same period in 2015.

North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2016 totaled 32,227,999, down 5.3 percent compared with 2015.

Slight Increase in Weekly U.S. Rail Traffic

December 1st, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending November 26, 2016, totaled 452,759 carloads and intermodal units, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 229,866 for the week, were down by 0.4 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 222,893 units, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending November 26, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Grain was up by 20.2 percent to 22,438 carloads; metallic ores and metals were up 8.5 percent to 18,206 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads were up 7.8 percent to 7,461 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 23.2 percent to 9,150 carloads. Motor vehicles and parts declined by 15.3 percent to 12,773 carloads, and forest products dropped 8.4 percent to 8,511 carloads.

For the first 47 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 24,048,709 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 11,848,889, were down by 9.2 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 12,199,820, dropped by 2.6 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending November 26, 2016, was 617,702 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.3 percent.

For the first 47 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 5.5 percent, with a total of 31,506,124 carloads and intermodal units.

October Rail Traffic Decreases 3.2 Percent

November 7th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for October 2016 was 2,142,814 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.2 percent or 70,896 carloads and intermodal units compared with October 2015.

October 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,066,994, a drop of 5.1 percent, or 57,800 carloads, compared to October of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 3.8 percent or 28,179 carloads compared to October 2015.

Intermodal traffic for October totaled 1,075,820 containers and trailers, down 13,096 units, or 1.2 percent, compared to last October.

Four of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with October of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included waste and nonferrous scrap, up 9.9 percent, or 1,349 carloads; grain, up 6 percent, or 6,014 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, up 2.2 percent, or 535 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 24 percent, or 12,849 carloads, and coal declined 7.6 percent, or 29,621 carloads. Chemicals were down 3.1 percent, or 3,660 carloads.

“Railroads continue to face a difficult macroeconomic environment that’s negatively impacting their traffic volume,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray.

“Grain is doing well and autos are hanging on, but many other commodity categories that depend on a vibrant industrial sector — things like steel, petroleum products, and crushed stone — are not doing as well as railroads would like,” added Gray.  “Hopefully that changes in the months ahead.”

For the week ending October 29, 2016, a decrease of 0.8 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 544,997.

For the week, there were 271,576 carloads, a drop of 2.8 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 273,421 containers and trailers, up 1.3 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Grain had the highest increase, up 3.8 percent, with a total 25,247 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 10,608, a drop of 17.6 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending October 29, 2016, was 716,097 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.1 percent.

For the first 43 weeks of 2016, total U.S. rail traffic was down 6.6 percent, or 21,963,642 carloads and intermodal units, from the same time period in 2015. U.S. carloads totaled 10,804,210, a drop of 10 percent. Intermodal containers and trailers totaled 11,159,432 units, down 3 percent compared with the same period in 2015.

North American rail volume for the first 43 weeks of 2016 totaled 28,752,216, down 6.1 percent compared with 2015.

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AAR Reports Decrease in Total Rail Traffic, Increase in Monthly, Weekly Grain Traffic

October 6th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for September 2016 was 2,109,578 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.8 percent or 106,647 carloads and intermodal units compared with September 2015.

September 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,068,644, a drop of 5.4 percent, or 61,455 carloads, compared to September of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 1.1 percent or 7,559 carloads compared to September 2015.

Intermodal traffic for September totaled 1,040,934 containers and trailers, down 45,192 units, or 4.2 percent, compared to last September.

Nine of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with September of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included waste and nonferrous scrap, up 28.8 percent, or 3,725 carloads; grain, up 11.2 percent, or 9,860 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 7.5 percent, or 1,414 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 21.6 percent, or 11,810 carloads, and coal declined 13.1 percent, or 53,896 carloads. Primary metal products were down 9.5 percent, or 3,459 carloads.

“Rail traffic in September was more of what we have come to expect this year: big declines in energy related products, continued weakness in intermodal and most other export markets, but with some strength in grain,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “The fact is, in many of their markets, railroads are facing significant market uncertainties.”

“It isn’t helping that rail regulators are seeking to put additional costly regulatory burdens on railroads too,” added Gray. “The inefficiencies and unnecessary costs railroads would incur if regulators succeed would make it that much harder for railroads to meet the needs of their customers and to allow the capital investment necessary to adapt their networks to a changing marketplace.”

For the week ending October 1, 2016, a decrease of 4 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 549,171.

For the week, there were 277,157 carloads, a drop of 4.4 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 272,014 containers and trailers, down 3.5 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Grain had the highest increase, up 10.6 percent, with a total 27,626 carloads; followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 6.2 percent, with a total of 19,755 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, up 3.8 percent to 22,524 carloads.

Miscellaneous carloads reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 9,611 carloads, a drop of 25 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 22.2 percent to 10,320 carloads, and coal decreased by 10.3 percent to 91,943 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending October 1, 2016, was 725,944 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.2 percent.

For the first 39 weeks of 2016, total U.S. rail traffic was down 6.9 percent, or 19,820,828 carloads and intermodal units, from the same time period in 2015. U.S. carloads totaled 9,737,216, a drop of 10.5 percent. Intermodal containers and trailers totaled 10,083,612 units, down 3.2 percent compared with the same period in 2015.

North American rail volume for the first 39 weeks of 2016 totaled 25,933,122, down 6.6 percent compared with 2015.

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USDOT Announces Grants for PTC Implementation on Commuter Railroads

August 2nd, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is accepting applications for $199 million in competitive grant funding for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation on commuter railroads for Fiscal Year 2017. The grants will be selected by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and awarded and administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “With more passengers depending on rail for transportation, Positive Train Control is needed more than ever. I encourage all commuter railroads to take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in the most important rail safety technology in more than a century.”

FRA will accept applications until 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2016, from eligible applicants, including any entity that is eligible to receive grants from the FTA, such as commuter railroads, operators, and state and local governments.

Projects eligible for grants must develop information that assists in implementing PTC systems, such as costs of installing PTC systems; back office systems; PTC interoperability; technologies that will lower costs, accelerate implementation, enhance interoperability between host and tenant operations, and improve reliability of PTC systems; and support PTC system certification.

“This funding will get us a bit closer to activating Positive Train Control on some of the most important railroads in the country that transport millions of passengers to their jobs each morning and to their families each night,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We urge railroads to submit strong applications that make these dollars go as far as possible, and we remain hopeful that Congress will act on the President’s request for more funding to make PTC a reality as quickly as possible.”

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation (PIH), or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH), hazardous materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Congress has extended the original deadline from December 31, 2015, to at least December 31, 2018.

PTC technology can prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.

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AAR Reports Decline in June Rail Traffic

July 6th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for June 2016 was 2,540,265 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.3 percent or 170,607 carloads and intermodal units compared with June 2015.

June 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 1,245,025, a drop of 7 percent, or 93,687 carloads, compared to June of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 2.3 percent or 20,493 carloads compared to June 2015.

Intermodal traffic for June totaled 1,295,240 containers and trailers, down 76,920 units, or 5.6 percent, compared to last June.

Six of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with June of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 17 percent, or 4,569 carloads; waste and nonferrous scrap, up 16.4 percent, or 2,907 carloads; and grain, up 13.8 percent, or 12,982 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 22.2 percent, or 15,415 carloads, and coal declined 16.4 percent, or 73,194 carloads. Crushed stone, gravel and sand were down 6.6 percent, or 7,727 carloads.

“Rail traffic remains relatively weak, with slightly better coal volumes in June offset by continued weakness in intermodal caused in part by an inventory overhang and global economic uncertainty,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Because current economic indicators are presenting a mixed picture, it’s not clear if railroads should be pessimistic or cautiously optimistic about the near- to medium term.”

For the week ending July 2, 2016, an increase of 4.4 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 529,191.

For the week, there were 264,015 carloads, up 4.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 265,176 containers and trailers, up 4 percent compared to 2015.

The AAR has noted that the July 4 holiday is not included in week 26 data for 2016, but is included in week 26 data of 2015. The AAR is pointing out that, therefore, week 26 data for 2016 is somewhat overstated compared to week 26 of 2015.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 30.9 percent, with a total 10,824 carloads; followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 29 percent, with a total of 18,742 carloads; and grain, up 26.4 percent to 23,248 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 11,186 carloads, a drop of 18.2 percent. Coal was down by 4.8 percent to 79,354 carloads, and forest products decreased by 0.3 percent to 11,019 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending July 2, 2016, was 684,087 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.7 percent.

For the first 26 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 13,008,219 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.4 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 6,295,216, were down by 12.3 percent, and intermodal volume, with a total of 6,713,003, was down by 2.1 percent.

For the first 26 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.1 percent, with a total of 17,033,080 crloads and intermodal units.

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U.S. Rail Traffic Declines in May

June 3rd, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for May 2016 was 2,012,202 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.8 percent or 147,043 carloads and intermodal units compared with May 2015.

May 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 962,571, a drop of 10.3 percent, or 110,678 carloads, compared to May of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 29.6 percent or 259,735 carloads compared to May 2015.

Intermodal traffic for May totaled 1,049,631 containers and trailers, down 36,365 units, or 3.3 percent, compared to last May.

Ten of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with May of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 30.8 percent, or 5,854 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 5.3 percent, or 4,670 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.8 percent, or 4,514 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 29.6 percent, or 109,276 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products declined 20.3 percent, or 11,988 carloads. Metallic ores were down 12.9 percent, or 3,701 carloads.

“Most economists think the economy has picked up in the second quarter from the dismal 0.8 percent growth in the first quarter, but so far railroads aren’t seeing much of it,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “A variety of environmental and market forces continue to punish coal, and high business inventory levels and excess truck capacity, among other things, are pressuring rail intermodal volumes. Railroads are focusing on what they can control — providing safe, reliable service — while looking forward to the forces they can’t control turning their way.”

For the week ending May 28, 2016, an increase of 1.9 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 513,917.

For the week, there were 246,881 carloads, down 4.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,036 containers and trailers, up 8 percent compared to 2015.

The AAR has noted that traffic for the week this year does not include Memorial Day while the comparable week last year does include Memorial Day. The AAR is pointing out that this week’s numbers are not a true reflection of rail traffic when compared to 2015.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 57 percent, with a total 11,119 carloads; followed by motor vehicles and parts, up 10.2 percent, with a total of 18,897 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 9.3 percent to 35,410 carloads.

Coal reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 65,832 carloads, a drop of 25 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 13.9 percent to 12,258 carloads, and forest products decreased by 6.9 percent to 10,104 carloads.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending May 28, 2016, was 664,994 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.1 percent.

For the first 21 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 10,467,954 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 5,050,191, were down by 13.6 percent, and intermodal volume, with a total of 5,417,763, was down by 1.3 percent.

For the first 21 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.3 percent, with a total of 13,720,573 carloads and intermodal units.

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AAR Reports Decline in April Rail Traffic

May 6th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that total U.S. rail traffic for April 2016 was 1,972,829 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.8 percent or 264,327 carloads and intermodal units compared with April 2015.

April 2016 U.S. carload originations totaled 944,339, a drop of 16.1 percent, or 180,598 carloads, compared to April of last year. Excluding coal, carloads for the month were down 2.8 percent or 19,974 carloads compared to April 2015.

Intermodal traffic for April totaled 1,028,460 containers and trailers, down 83,729 units, or 7.5 percent, compared to last April.

Five of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw increases last month compared with April of 2015. Commodities showing the largest increases included miscellaneous carloads, up 25 percent, or 4,743 carloads; coke, up 16.1 percent, or 2,354 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.5 percent, or 1,909 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 39.7 percent, or 160,624 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products declined by 25.1 percent, or 15,122 carloads. Grain mill products were down 7.1 percent, or 2,760 carloads.

“Rail coal traffic continues to suffer due to low natural gas prices and high coal stockpiles at power plants,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Coal accounted for just 26 percent of non-intermodal rail traffic for U.S. railroads in April 2016, down from 36 percent in April 2015 and 45 percent as recently as late 2011. We expect non-coal carloads to strengthen when the economy gets stronger, and we think intermodal weakness in April is probably at least partly a function of high business inventories that need to be drawn down before new orders, and thus new shipments, are made.”

For the week ending April 30, 2016, a decrease of 11.3 percent was reported in total U.S. rail traffic compared with the same week in 2015. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 502,045.

For the week, there were 243,604 carloads, down 14.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 258,441 containers and trailers, down 8.6 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads had the highest increase, up 12.7 percent, with a total 10,204 carloads; followed by grain, up 8.7 percent, with a total of 20,038 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3.1 percent to 18,965 carloads.

Coal reported the largest decrease for the week compared to the same time period in 2015, with a total of 64,145 carloads, a drop of 37 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products were down by 25.5 percent to 11,053 carloads, and forest products decreased by 13.1 percent to 10,025 carloads.

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AAR Reports Decreased Weekly Rail Traffic

April 28th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending April 23, 2016, totaled 491,946 carloads and intermodal units, an 11.7 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 230,599 for the week, were down by 17.1 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 261,347 units, a decrease of 6.3 percent compared to 2015.

Three of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending April 23, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads increased 23.3 percent to 9,515 carloads, chemicals were up 1.6 percent to 30,858 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts were up by 1.3 percent to 19,138 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 40.1 percent to 58,837 carloads. Petroleum and petroleum products declined by 24.9 percent to 11,348 carloads, and grain dropped 7.9 percent to 18,340 carloads.

For the first 16 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 7,953,707 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 3,844,016, were down by 14.3 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 4,109,691, dropped by 0.2 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending April 23, 2016, was 648,515 carloads and intermodal units, down 11 percent.

For the first 16 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.1 percent, with a total of 10,433,247 carloads and intermodal units.

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NS Reducing Operations at Knoxville Rail Yard

April 25th, 2016

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS) has announced that it will reduce train operations at its Knoxville, Tenn., rail yard, effective May 1, in response to lower traffic volumes and the company’s five-year strategic plan to implement cost control initiatives and network improvements. The plan includes enhancing operating efficiencies, reducing costs, driving profitability, and supporting long-term growth.

NS will idle switching operations at the rail yard, where freight cars from inbound trains are sorted by destination and assembled into outbound trains. This will decrease train traffic, reducing the need for personnel and infrastructure for train operations and maintenance activities. The Knoxville terminal will still serve as a hub for through-train operations and NS has developed an operating plan to minimize any customer impact.

Knoxville will continue to serve as headquarters for the company’s Central Division, which includes 1,100 track miles primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky. The company currently employs more than 1,570 people across Tennessee with nearly 850 miles of track across the state, intermodal terminals in Memphis, and a major rail classification yard and locomotive shop in Chattanooga.

NS remains on track to achieve its previously announced annual expense savings of more than $650 million and an operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020.

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