Derailments still knocking shipments off track

TWO derailments of Powder River Basin (PRB) coal in Wyoming in May are now slowing down outgoing traffic from the area as much as 10-20%, according to local newspaper the Casper Star-Tribune. The accident may also have long-term consequences for coal producers in the area.
Derailments still knocking shipments off track Derailments still knocking shipments off track Derailments still knocking shipments off track Derailments still knocking shipments off track Derailments still knocking shipments off track

Courtesy Union Pacific.

Donna Schmidt

Inclement weather was to blame for the May 14 and 15 derailments, each carrying coal shipments, on a major rail line from the area jointly owned by Union Pacific (UP) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). The line carries about one-third of the coal supply for the US, or 370 million tons.

With about 14 miles of damaged track and ties, UP and BNSF has said it plans to eradicate coal dust from about 100 miles of roadbed.

“What we’re trying to do now is repair the track so we can move as many trains as quickly and safely as possible,” said UP spokeswoman Kathryn Blackwell. “But to do those track repairs, as you can imagine, you have to stop train traffic to let the works have time on that track.”

Coal producers are optimistic, however. Peabody Energy chief Greg Boyce said during the company’s earnings conference that he expected the tracks to be repaired, and even expanded, by 2006.

“It is our view the rail capacity will easily exceed 400 million tons,” said Boyce. “The issue with rail performance right now is an issue of getting the tracks up to their standard level of maintenance.”

Some have concerns the timely rail repairs will not be made, causing power companies to look elsewhere for coal; however, Boyce is not concerned, as repair plans coupled with the increased demand for PRB coal would maintain flow of the product from the area.

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