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Florida Times-Union | Harrison’s Changes Bring Slowdowns and Complaints to CSX

08.02.17 | Roger Bull, Flordia Times-Union

CSX’s efforts to streamline its operations have brought complaints from customers about deteriorating service. But the head of the railroad is blaming the problems on resistance to change within the company. 

According to the federal Surface Transportation Board, the complaints include significantly slower and unpredictable transit times while loaded and empty cars sit idle for days. The problems have forced some shippers to reduce or stop production or find other transportation, it said.

Harrison’s move to CSX was highly publicized throughout the railroading and financial world. An industry veteran who has turned around several railroads, he is the leading proponent of what’s called precision railroading, with every piece working together like one continuous conveyor belt.

The railroad has taken nearly 900 locomotives and 60,000 freight cars out of service and laid off 2,300 people this year. And last month, Harrison that 700 more positions could be gone by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, trains are slowing and customers are complaining.

“The rail performance statistics indicate that CSX is currently far from precision railroading and in fact, is heading in the wrong direction,” said Larry Gross, a rail analyst with FTR Transportation Intelligence. “After a swift improvement in the weeks following Harrison’s assumption of command, the statistics have turned around and are heading in the wrong direction.

“Average train speeds have fallen for the past seven weeks straight from a recent peak of 22.5 mph to 19.2 mph in the most recent week. The average over the last four weeks is over 3 percent slower than the average performance of the company over the past 10 years and headed downward.”

Gross also pointed to the railroad’s own stats that show the average time cars spend idle in yards between trains, called yard dwell, has increased from 24 hours to 28 hours in the past four weeks.

“The trend is unfavorable and as yet shows no sign of turning,” he said.

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