BNSF has made significant investments in its Northern Corridor route. Photo: BNSF

BNSF has made significant investments in its Northern Corridor route. Photo: BNSF

BNSF Railway, saying it's responding to marketplace demand, announced new service schedules for its domestic intermodal customers to and from Chicago and St. Paul, Minn. to the Pacific Northwest.

The new schedules, which will take effect Sept. 14, are made possible by BNSF’s capital investments along its Northern Corridor route, according to the company.

The new schedules will feature Expedited service seven days a week for westbound traffic and six days a week for eastbound traffic, which is one day more than is currently offered in the marketplace for this region. BNSF says it will also be the only rail operator to offer Expedited service to and from Seattle.

BNSF offers a range of intermodal service options. The two primary service options are “Expedited” and “Standard.” Standard service averages about 600 miles per day and Expedited service averages about 800 miles per day, making it on average 20% faster than standard.

According to the Journal of Commerce, the move is a strategy to regain domestic intermodal business lost to Union Pacific Railroad, which last year launched new intermodal services between Portland and Chicago. Those services "appeared to be aimed at attracting cargo from shippers frustrated with BNSF delays on the Northern Corridor," notes JOC.

“From 2013 through the end of this year BNSF will have invested nearly $3.5 billion in our Northern Region to maintain and improve our rail network to better serve our customers’ transportation needs,” said Katie Farmer, BNSF consumer products group vice president. “BNSF is now running quicker and more consistently. The added capacity and maintenance work we regularly conduct is progressing as planned.”

The high demand for transport of frac sand, oil and other energy related shipments and grain traffic clogged BNSF’s Northern Corridor last year, causing transit times to drop, notes JOC.