United States Class I railroad carriers BNSF and CSX this week announced they will collaborate on a direct-rail domestic and international container-only intermodal service running between Los Angeles and North Baltimore, Ohio, which is slated to kick off on October 29.
BNSF officials said that the objective of this joint service’s design is to simplify customer supply chains, adding that it will run eastbound and westbound and have departure offerings five days a week in each direction.
“Our new Ohio intermodal service will create an efficient, direct service from the West Coast into the Ohio Valley region,” said Tom Williams, group vice president, Consumer Products for BNSF, in a statement. “It’s another way BNSF is working to streamline the existing supply chain and makes moving products easier.”
As is the case with BNSF’s Southern California to Atlanta route, BNSF said a portion of this new service from the Los Angeles to North Baltimore will operate under a haulage agreement with CSX, adding that it will traverse BNSF’s Southern Transcon through and beyond Chicago to the Ohio valley.
On the CSX end of this joint service, its cornerstone is the CSX Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal, according to CSX President and CEO James Foote.
“[This terminal] is ideally situated on CSX’s main line network 30 miles south of Toledo on Interstate 75 and is surrounded by a population of nearly 30 million within a 200-mile radius,” said Foote in a statement. “We are excited to transform Northwest Ohio into a regional demand point that provides attractive solutions for customers and supply chain needs.”
CSX opened up its Northwest Ohio facility in 2011. It is comprised of seven wide span electric cranes, major track infrastructure, and technology that minimize track idling time. The facility, which is located over 500 acres, is open 24 hours a day and has a lift capacity of 700,000 for local operations, as well as ground storage available for more than 2,000 units.
A noted intermodal expert told LM that this partnership provides a new option for intermodal shippers, while adding it also comes with some challenges, too.
“This new service will provide one way for intermodal users to reach the Ohio Valley from the west coast without a rubber-tire transfer in Chicago,” said Larry Gross, president of Gross Transportation Consulting. “This will save time and money. But there are issues. The CSX terminal was originally designed to function as a sorting hub for CSX traffic. While its location was ideal for that purpose in terms of the CSX network, it is located in a rural area with the relevant freight markets at least 100 miles distant. This will add drayage costs and also raises an issue regarding the availability of sufficient dray capacity at such a remote location.”