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Published June 16, 2014, 11:25 AM

Ag shuttle service declines to April levels

Agricultural shipping on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway hit a downturn for shuttle train service in the region last week, but there were fewer late single cars.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Agricultural shipping on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway hit a downturn for shuttle train service in the region last week, but there were fewer late single cars.

John Miller, BNSF agricultural group vice president, said in his 18th weekly service progress report that shuttle shipments had declined to 2.1 turnaround cycles per month system-wide — continuing a trend of no improvement since the May 22 report and the worst level since March 28. Shippers say they experience consequences in the market when the turns are fewer than 2.5 per month, and many say 2.7 to three turns per month is ideal.

Shuttles to the Pacific Northwest ports declined to 2.1 turns per month — the poorest rate since April, and more analogous to the performance during the weather problems in April. Shuttles to the Gulf of Mexico declined dramatically to 1.8 turns per month, down 42 percent from the previous week and the poorest rate since BNSF began its weekly reports.

Meanwhile, Miller says the number of late single car shipments had improved for the fifth consecutive week, nationally. Cars late declined by 1,279 to 11,127 system-wide. Those cars are still an average of 28.2 days late — the third week in a row the wait has been greater than 28 days.

North Dakota cars late have improved for the past seven weeks. The state still has 6,137 late cars, an improvement of 223 cars or 3.5 percent from the previous week. Days late are 28.7, about 7 percent less than the peak of 30.9 days late on May 30.

South Dakota late cars improved to 217 — less than a third of the peak of 682 cars on May 7. Average days late are 23.7, the fourth consecutive week of improvement.

Minnesota still has 1,208 late cars, the sixth straight week of improvement. Average days late are 22.3, the same as the previous week and the worst since the April 11 report.

Montana late cars improved to 2,129, a fourth straight week of improvement, down from the May 6 level of 3,258 cars late. The average days late remained at 31.6, only a slight improvement from the previous week.

Miller says the segment of the line from Minot, N.D., to Fargo, N.D., remained in service during the previous week, with no sub-grade failures. Lines in the Glasgow, Mont., and Devils Lake, N.D., areas had brief outages to stabilize track and minimize locations where train speeds must be reduced.

The Glasgow subdivision had a 12-hour outage as a result of work on the double-track being placed on that line. The Williston, N.D., to Scobey, Mont., segment remained in service during the week, but lines to Bottineau and Rolla in North Dakota continued to be out of service.

A derailment occurred early in the morning on June 13 on the railroad’s Staples, Minn., subdivision, near Elk River, Minn.

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