With 102 recorded fatalities, and causing damage costing upwards of $62 billion Hurricane Irma proved a stark reminder of both the power of nature and the increasing regularity of such extraordinary weather events. Unofficially the fourth costliest hurricane on record, it wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and south eastern USA between 30 August and 15 September and rail services didn’t escape the devastaing damage to property and extensive flooding. And now the focus is on US rail rebuilding and getting services back on track.
Within hours of Hurricane Irma striking Florida, Class-1 giant, CSX re-established rail service in most of the southeast U.S. within hours, into and out of northern Florida within 24 hours, and throughout the vast majority of the state within one week. Restoring service required clearing nearly 8,000 fallen trees from obstructed tracks and deploying hundreds of generators to operate railroad signals and crossings in response to widespread commercial power outages. Prior to the storm, CSX evacuated more than 1,500 rail cars from the State of Florida, and held nearly 200 trains and thousands of cars to avoid damage from the hurricane.
CSX President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison told press, “I’m extraordinarily proud of our team of dedicated railroaders, who worked tirelessly to prepare for and respond to the impacts of Hurricane Irma. Thanks to the dedication of these individuals, CSX was able to quickly and safely restore service to its customers, while continuing to make progress in the transition to our new operating model.”
Despite the impacts of Irma, key service metrics show that CSX’s operational performance continues to improve. Remarkably, terminal dwell times have decreased for seven consecutive weeks, while train velocity has steadily increased over the last four weeks, excluding localized hurricane impacts.
“We’re back on our feet and committed to fully implementing our new operating model,” Harrison said. “We remain confident that Precision Scheduled Railroading will provide lasting benefits to our customers, our employees and our shareholders.”
Tri-Rail the commuter rail line linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, Florida, resumed service last week, with a weekend schedule of service would resume with free rides for the first three days.
Reported in the Sun-Sentinel, among the problems they had to overcome were ten miles of track between Miami-Dade and West Palm Beach had been covered with downed trees and fencing. Nearly 40 crossing signals and a third of Tri-Rail’s 18 train stations lacked power and their Golden Glades station in Miami-Dade was severely damaged.
“Our contractors have been working hard to solve these problems,” said South Florida Regional Transportation Authority chairman Steve Abrams. “Staff has been on the job around the clock.”
Last week also saw Amtrak announce that the Silver Meteor train from New York City to Miami would resume scheduled service, followed by the Silver Star from New York City to Miami
Fellow Class-1 Norfolk Southern is donating $100,000 and will match certain Norfolk Southern employee gifts as part of efforts to help people recover from Hurricane Irma. The Foundation, Norfolk Southern’s charitable giving arm, will give $50,000 to the American Red Cross and $25,000 each to the Feeding Tampa Bay and Feeding South Florida food banks. The Foundation will match employee donations for relief efforts made to the American Red Cross and Feeding America food banks, including members Feeding Tampa Bay and Feeding South Florida.
About 200 Norfolk Southern employees live and work in Florida. Norfolk Southern is making interest-free loans of up to $10,000 to employees in Florida and elsewhere who sustained damage to their primary residences or loss of household property caused by severe storms and flooding associated with Irma. The Norfolk Southern Foundation earlier this month donated $50,000 each to the American Red Cross and Houston Food Bank to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.
Earlier this month, we reported how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) or drones as they more commonly known, were being used to help monitor and survey rail networks hit by both Irma and Hurricane Harvey.
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