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CSX says its rail service is improving after major delays

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — CSX railroad said Wednesday that its service is improving after a summer marked by delays as it overhauled its operations.

But despite the reported improvements, the Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad trimmed its profit outlook. It now expects profit to improve between 20 and 25 percent over last year’s earnings per share of $1.81. Previously, CSX had predicted 25 percent profit growth.

New CEO Hunter Harrison said in a statement that the railroad has made good progress implementing his operating model, but the extensive changes involved did delay some deliveries over the summer.

“The railroad is now returning to a normal operating rhythm, and our performance metrics are improving,” Harrison said.

The average speed of CSX’s trains improved 2 percent last week to 13.6 mph, and the average length of time trains remained in terminals, known as “dwell time,” decreased 2.5 percent to 11.5 hours. But in some locations, the dwell time remains much higher, such as at CSX’s Indianapolis railyard where trains lingered 28.6 hours on average last week.

Investors appeared to welcome the news of improved service. CSX’s stock was up almost 3 percent in Wednesday afternoon trading.

The federal Surface Transportation Board has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday on CSX’s service problems to give customers a chance to hear more from the railroad. Several groups of rail customers have spoken out about CSX.

“Significant concerns about CSX’s service remain, and there is a long way to go before service levels return to acceptable levels,” said Scott Jenson, spokesman for the American Chemistry Council.

Agricultural groups and other manufacturers that rely on CSX to deliver raw materials and carry their products away to sell have also spoken out about the railroad’s problems.

The changes CSX is making include changing the way trains are assembled at seven of its 12 railyards. The railroad is reducing its number of internal divisions to five from nine and consolidating all nine of its dispatching offices into one.

As part of the changes, CSX has eliminated 3,700 jobs this year.

The moves are all part of the operating plan Harrison brought with him when he was hired in March. The 72-year-old previously used tighter train schedules and lean expenses to generate significant profits at Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railroads.

CSX operates more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces.

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