Precision Scheduled Railroading has generated promises, alarm, financial results, and angst – but what has it meant on the ground for customers? An examination of CSX regional train operation changes since PSR’s implementation indicates that road “manifest” and intermodal trains have been combined and lengthened, but local freights are running about the same.
Syracuse NY – Middleboro MA
Fewer, longer road jobs
In 2017, CSX ran seven mixed merchandise trains from Selkirk to West Springfield, Brookfield, Worcester, Ayer and Framingham. Now that business is handled in four much longer trains operated with distributed power. Three are mixed freight from Selkirk to Springfield, Worcester, and Framingham, respectively. One is a Cleveland – Brookfield automotive train.
In 2017 four container and intermodal trains linked Worcester to New Jersey, Chicago (two trains), and Columbus OH/St. Louis. A fifth train linked Springfield to Chicago.
Current CSX through-train operations
The CSX New Jersey – New England train has been dropped entirely. Blocks from Worcester still make connections to Florida points. One pair of connecting Worcester – Midwest trains has been dropped, leaving just one pair running Boston – Chicago, while other Boston line trains terminate at Syracuse, to have their traffic added to other trains serving Midwest yards. In 2018, CSX shifted some BNSF connecting traffic from Worcester to West Springfield.
CSX continues to run unit ethanol trains from midwest points to Motiva in Providence RI via P&W. These have not been mixed into the regular carload freight network as some other unit train runs have.
Thus, PSR’s most apparent accomplishment is fewer, longer intermodal and manifest trains.
Local service changes
In 2017 CSX ran 19 local freights in New England. Four of them have been abolished:
- B732 and B735 in Readville (due to declining business),
- B723 from Framingham, resulting in Westboro and Grafton & Upton no longer getting daily service,
B721 which served the last Boston customers and the New England produce market in Everett. (CSX transferred responsibility for Everett service to Pan-Am.)
Current CSX local operations
Otherwise, local freight service appears to be running more or less the same as before PSR, though without the prior reliability, due in part perhaps, to reduced “extra board” manpower.
The premise of Precision Scheduled Railroading is that, more schedule discipline results in better asset utilization, lower costs, and better service to customers. Cost savings from longer road trains are obvious, and we presume that significant savings are coming from more efficient yard operations and scheduling so dwell is reduced. But railfan observations indicate that train schedules are no more definite than before PSR implementation.
Christopher has 15 years of railroad experience, starting as a Conductor on Cape Cod and 15 years of public policy advocacy and outreach work. Christopher is Executive Director of Vermont Rail Action Network, communicating the vision of better trains to elected and government officials, community leaders and the public. Christopher is a consultant for freight and passenger planning and development projects including operating planning, federal grant applications, marketing, and public outreach.