BNSF spent $5.5 billion on improvements
Agriculture producers who depend on freight trains to transfer their harvest and ethanol have managed to avoid the major rail congestions that plagued farmers across much of the region last winter and into the spring.
- We’re not seeing any overwhelming demand at this point,” Greg Guthrie, director of agricultural products marketing with BNSF Railway, told reporters at the American Farm Bureau Federation conference.
Guthrie said Sunday that BNSF, the largest hauler of grain among the major U.S. railroads, has restored service to normal in most areas. He downplayed attacks by critics who accused railroads of favoring oil over agriculture, which accounts for about 10 percent of his company’s business.
In 2014, BNSF, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, spent an estimated $5.5 billion on improvements throughout its system, with a significant amount going toward the railroad’s Northern region, which includes Montana. BNSF plans to spend close to $6 billion to maintain and expand its network this year. Last month, BNSF said its expansion plans included an additional 60- miles of double track going across North Dakota and eastern Montana.
While there are still some residual delays, the reason for improvement across most of the country’s rail network this season hinges on a series of factors, including a less-brutal winter and a move by BNSF, Canadian Pacific Railway and other shippers to boost crew and purchase more engines and other equipment. In addition, lower grain prices have prompted some farmers to hold off on sending their crops to market in hopes of getting a better price later.
“I don’t think so far we’ve had the major disruptions that some were afraid of early in the year,” Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told reporters. “Maybe we have avoided the disaster that was sort of predicted going into the fall, but that still means that we have to work to improve that congestion.”
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation
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