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One Year After Falling Short, BNSF, Union Pacific Closer to Expectations



November 13, 2023 - Travis Deti, executive director of Wyoming Mining Association, said during a Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development meeting last week, the association’s members reported about 65% of their trains were coming in.

“Rail service with our coal operators has improved dramatically,” Deti said.

Deti said members in the Powder River Basin were up to 85-95% of trains coming in, which he said is about normal. While bentonite producers in the Big Horn Basin are still having some issues, they are not experiencing the same problems the coal industry was having a year ago.

“Service is improved, and perhaps more importantly, not only the service, but the communications have improved,” Deti said.

Nathan Anderson, senior director of public affairs for Union Pacific, said the company produces a monthly scorecard to the industry to help improve communication. Anderson added the scorecards help provide common language and data to talk about and address broad issues within the mineral industry.

Amid concerns shared by Deti about how the railroad industry would accommodate for increases in soda ash — used to make glass, chemicals and detergents — production, Anderson explained Union Pacific is planning to invest $450 million to address the expected expansions.

BNSF Executive Director of Public Affairs Matt Jones said the company had committed to providing better service to its customers and Wyoming mineral producers.

“I’m pleased to report that since May, the velocity on our coal network has been approximately 300 miles per day, which is extremely good,” Jones said. “It’s an indication of a fluid and efficient network that’s operating as it should.”

Jones added BNSF is up to 318 miles per day through Nov. 9, which is the best mark all year. Jones also said the company needs to keep an eye on the future and remain prepared for the winter and beyond.

“With a cautious note of optimism, I think we have put the resources where they need to be in order to meet the current expectations of our customers,” he said.

As previously reported by The Sheridan Press, committee member Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, said in March that BNSF was failing to meet contracted terms and ineffectively transporting the state’s coal. He declined to comment about the information shared during Thursday’s meeting.