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KATRINA UPDATE: Railroads still recovering

The major railroads serving the Gulf Coast states continue to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and restore service to the region.

Jacksonville, FL-based CSX Corp. said it's continuing to re-route traffic around storm-affected areas and expects repair estimates to top $250 million, including the capital costs of rebuilding the rail infrastructure, losses from business interruption, and other costs associated with the storm damage. CSX said it currently estimates third-quarter losses associated with business interruption and other costs would negatively impact operating income by around $25 million.

Yet Tony Ingram, CSX's executive vp & COO, remains upbeat about the railroad's ability to cope with the long-term damage to its systems caused by Katrina. "The flexibility of our network has enabled us to respond quickly to the needs of our customers whose freight normally travels across the affected area," he said. "Service to local customers will also be restored as repairs are made in phases over an estimated six-month period. The rerouted trains will be brought back to the original lines when all major repairs are completed."

Omaha, NE-based rail giant Union Pacific added that local service to UP customers on its line between Livonia, LA, and Avondale, LA, is up and running but that it is still detouring 14 trains that normally use the New Orleans gateway. Memphis, TN, is primarily being used for detours to eastern carriers, with St. Louis, MO as the secondary gateway.

Norfolk, VA-based Norfolk Southern Corp. operated its first westbound train from New Orleans Sept. 13 and then gave it to UP at Avondale as UP is interchanging four trains a day with the NS, two west and two east, to help beef up rail service. Because of the damage to NS buildings in New Orleans, UP is also providing temporary office space, communication equipment and crew lodging in Avondale.

UP added that it's moved 135 trailers loaded with bottled water now being distributed by truck to Katrina victims and response workers, along with several special fuel trains delivered to eastern railroads. It is also coordinating all relief material movements through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including the movement and staging of 20 refrigerated box cars UP donated to support the relief effort.

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