CSX CEO: trains can get longer as shipments rise

AP News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2010 5:17 PM
CSX CEO: trains can get longer as shipments rise

The CEO of CSX Corp. said Wednesday the railroad still has more room to grow its trains without adding staff, a key component of the efficiency that's allowed it to grow earnings at a much faster pace than shipments have picked up.

In an interview with The Associated Press, CEO Michael Ward said the Jacksonville, Fla., company can still grow carrying capacity by 10 to 15 percent, depending on the type of train. Most trains have 85 or 86 cars, Ward said, but coal trains can have as many as 150 cars _ making the trains about 2 miles long.

CSX said late Tuesday its third-quarter earnings soared 43 percent as its trains ran more efficiently and shipments rose. Overall, shipments were up 10 percent. It added back employees, but at a slow pace to keep costs down. It raised core prices by about 6.6 percent.

In the fourth quarter, the company expects shipments to grow nearly across the board, much like they did in the third quarter, as the economy continues to recover. CSX predicts shipments to emerging markets _ those the rail delivers to Eastern ports and are then taken overseas _ will be flat because of slowing military shipments. It also expects continued weakness in the housing and construction markets because of slow growth in new homes and infrastructure development projects.

"There are no signs that (the housing market) is about to rebound," Ward said. "It's not declining, just not really improving. In every other market we're seeing good, steady, growth."

Shares rose 4.2 Wednesday. They closed up $2.40 to $59.66, near the 52-week high of $62 reached in May.