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Refrigerated Intermodal Service Ends Between Pacific Northwest, Midwest

August 8, 2014

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Photo: Cold Train
Photo: Cold Train
A refrigerated intermodal container service between the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest has ended due service from partner BNSF Railway that allegedly was not so hot.

The announcement by Cold Train follows a number of scheduling issues on BNSF Railway’s northern corridor line that have been occurring with BNSF beginning late last fall because of increased rail congestion as result of a surge of oil and coal shipments.

On April 24 BNSF Railway sent out an announcement to customers indicating that it would be reducing intermodal train service from Washington State to Chicago, effective mere days later, from two trains per day to one.

As a result of the scheduling change, rail transit time nearly doubled from three-days to six-days, according to Cold Train. This caused its costs of equipment, fuel and others to double, and caused many customers, especially fresh produce shippers, to look for other transportation service options, such as long-haul trucks.

Photo: Cold Train
Photo: Cold Train

Cold Train said because of BNSF’s scheduling issues from November of 2013 until recently, it lost most of its fresh produce business, which was more than 70% of the company’s business. In addition to adversely impacting many Washington State fresh produce growers and shippers, Cold Train said BNSF’s scheduling changes have affected many retailers and wholesalers in the Midwest and East Coast that purchase Washington State fresh produce and frozen foods. 

From April of 2010 when the Cold Train Express Intermodal Service was launched up until last fall, when BNSF’s on-time percentage allegedly began dropping and its rail schedules slowed sharply, Cold Train said had been enjoying tremendous growth with perishable shippers in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2010, Cold Train shipped approximately 100 containers of perishable commodities per month from Washington State to the Midwest. By 2013, Cold Train has been transporting nearly 700 containers per month of refrigerated products from Quincy, Wash. and Portland, Ore., and had expected to hit 1000 shipments per month by the end of this year.

A BNSF spokesperson told the Journal of Commerce it was willing to work with Cold Train or any other provider to have such service again.

In a release Cold Train said, “for the past three months we have worked with BNSF and our customers to accommodate these service changes. Our efforts have been unsuccessful.”

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