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The Uptrend in Norfolk’s Rail Traffic Continued in Week 52

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Rail traffic volumes

Norfolk Southern (NSC) reported an 11% YoY increase in its rail traffic volumes in Week 52 driven primarily by robust growth in carloads and intermodal units. The Eastern US railroad company hauled 115,612 total units compared to 104,135 units in the same week of the previous year.

Moreover, Norfolk Southern’s rail traffic growth in Week 52 was significantly higher than the overall 5.1% gain registered by US railroad companies.

In 2018, Norfolk Southern’s rail traffic volumes increased 4% YoY, which was higher than the 3.7% YoY increase reported by US railroad companies during the same period.

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Carloads increased

The company’s carload traffic grew for the third consecutive week. Norfolk Southern’s carload traffic made a remarkable turnaround in Week 50 after reporting falls for five consecutive weeks.

In Week 52, the Eastern US railroad company’s carload traffic grew 14.2% YoY, making it the fourth-highest gainer among Class I railroad companies (FXR). BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific (CP), and Canadian National (CNI) held the first three spots with respective carload traffic gains of 17.5%, 17%, and 16.5%, respectively. Norfolk Southern carried 53,862 railcars in Week 52 compared to 47,161 in the same period of the previous year. Kansas City Southern (KSU) was the only company that registered a decline in carload traffic in Week 52.

Norfolk Southern’s commodity groups excluding coal and coke accounted for 72% of its Week 52 total carload traffic. Coal and coke traffic contributed 28% of the company’s total carloads. Commodity group traffic excluding coal and coke increased 12.9% YoY to 38,648 units from 34,231 units. Coal and coke volumes grew 17.7% YoY to 15,214 units in Week 52 from 12,930 units.

The commodity groups excluding coal and coke that experienced notable volume growth in Week 52 included grain, motor vehicles and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, and iron and steel scrap. The commodity groups that recorded YoY falls in Week 52 volumes were forest products, pulp, paper, stone, and clay.

Intermodal volumes

Norfolk Southern’s intermodal traffic grew 8.4% YoY in Week 52 to 61,750 containers and trailers compared to 56,974 units in the previous year. The company’s container traffic expanded 10% YoY to 56,966 units from 51,793 units. However, its trailer volumes decreased 7.7% YoY to 4,784 units from 5,181 units in Week 52 of 2017. Among Class I railroad companies, Norfolk Southern’s intermodal traffic growth was the second highest after Canadian National’s gain of 9.6% in Week 52.

Next, we’ll discuss CSX’s rail traffic trends.

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