Union Pacific Parries SoCal Port Rail Service Criticism
The railroad is ''has been satisfying demand'' since May of this year, says UP executive
LOS ANGELES - 11/16/04 - Deflecting persistent charges from several quarters that it is at least partially responsible for the current jam of cargo at Southern California's major ocean ports, the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) has said it "is operating on demand at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and has been satisfying demand since May of this year."
"Contrary to recent reports that blame Union Pacific for ship delays at Southern California ports, we've been keeping up with demand since Memorial Day," said Randy Blackburn, the Omaha, Nebraska-headquartered railroad's vice president - premium services in a recent company press release.
The railroad, he said, is "handling record numbers of shipments, so trains sometimes don't depart as scheduled, but we catch up quickly."
There are, he added, "several factors involved in the port problem, but [the] Union Pacific is not responsible for causing any vessels to anchor offshore," he said.
To illustrate the volume of containers moving on the UPRR, Blackburn said, "five intermodal trains would be required to handle the arrival of a vessel carrying 2,250 40-foot containers. It is the dock operator's responsibility to unload and transfer containers to waiting trains?and the railroad's responsibility to ensure cars, locomotives and crews are in place."
The railroad, he said, "has made commitments to our customers at the on-dock terminals to not get behind, and we're living up to it. We prioritize the on-dock process to make sure customers get their cars and locomotives."
Most containers arriving at the ports that are not processed on the dock are trucked to the Union Pacific's Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF), which is located just a few miles east of both ports.
Trains at the ICTF "have been running on demand since Labor Day," he said.
Blackburn's comments came as the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that US rail carriers are seeing record volumes of cargo based on "the convergence of an improving economy, increased international trade, bumper crops, and higher fuel prices."
During one week last month, the rail industry moved the most freight volume in its history - 33.1 billion ton-miles (TM), just eclipsing the 32.7 billion TM mark set a week earlier, the Washington, DC-based industry group said.
Through the end of October, railroads had moved 1.3 trillion TM this year, or a full 4% more than at the same period last year.
A ton-mile is a transportation industry standard measurement of one ton of goods moving one mile.
"The rail industry has been carrying record tonnage, but the growth had been a more measured pace, 3 to 5 percent," said Steve Forsberg, a spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), which hired 2,300 entry-level conductors this year compared to the normal class of 800.
The BNSF and the Union Pacific are the primary rail carriers linking California ports and distribution centers with points throughout the US and Canada.
According to the AAR, intermodal volume, or the amount of trucking trailers and other containers carried on the rails, is up 9.6% from the same period a year ago.
"We've reached the capacity our grandfathers invested in transportation infrastructure," the BNSF's Forsberg said.
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