January 18, 2018 / 5:28 PM / 2 years ago

Norfolk Southern pushing for 'more stable' rail service in 2018: CEO

LOMBARD, Ill. (Reuters) - Norfolk Southern Corp is working toward a “more stable, resilient” network for 2018 following service issues in recent months, the No. 4 U.S. railroad’s top executive said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Antoinette Lloyd steps off a train during her conductor trainee program at Norfolk Southern's Calumet Yard in Chicago, Illinois, January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

Asked at a rail shipper conference outside Chicago when the railroad’s service environment and network will stabilize after experiencing volatility in 2017, Chief Executive Jim Squires said he is working for a “more stable, resilient company.”

“I am not here to make excuses. Yeah, it’s been tough,” Squires said. “When it gets cold in the south ... we struggle. It’s tough and it has been tough.”

Norfolk’s rail network, which spans 22 states across the eastern United States, grappled with a storm in the Southeast earlier this month and struggled with other service issues such as periodic crew shortages in 2017.

Its average train speed was down to 20 miles (32 km) per hour as of last week, versus 23 miles per hour a year ago, and the average time rail cars were idle in terminals was 28.4 hours versus 24.7 hours a year ago, according to company data.

“What you want from us is an action plan,” Squires said. “My commitment in 2018 is to a more resilient, durable, predictable, marketplace.”

“I am not going to stop until we achieve that goal,” he added.

Asked about crew shortages, Squires said the railroad had experienced problems in some locations but “we do not think that’s systemic in nature.”

“We think that we have adequate resources to handle foreseeable demand, but we’ve got to get that resources equation right in each and every place we operate. That can be a challenge.”

The Norfolk, Virginia-based operator will report fourth-quarter results on Jan. 24.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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