Rail Roundup: BNSF Reopens Intermodal Facility; KCS, Savage Plan Railport

BNSF reopens Memphis-area intermodal facility to meet increased demand

BNSF has reopened an intermodal facility in Arkansas to unlock capacity in the greater Memphis, Tennessee, area.

The railroad said Monday that it has reopened the Harvard Intermodal Facility in Marion, Arkansas, effective immediately to meet increased intermodal demand in greater Memphis.

All international intermodal shipments originating at the Port of Long Beach's Pier T Terminal will now terminate at the Harvard facility, BNSF BRK said. The Harvard facility is 27 miles northwest of BNSF's intermodal hub in Memphis.

BNSF also said that additional origination locations and train starts are being evaluated. 

A comparison of loaded international containers moving from Los Angeles and Memphis (ORAILINTL.LAXMEM). Blue represents volume in 2021 and purple represents 2020 volumes. In the past week, an average of 367 loaded international containers moved in the LA-MEM lane each day. With BNSF reopening its Memphis-area facility, that volume is set to increase. (FreightWaves SONAR) To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

Earlier this month, BNSF President and CEO Katie Farmer told the Surface Transportation Board that BNSF had been experiencing backlogs at its intermodal terminals and that the company had been resorting to staging as many as 30 trains outside of intermodal facilities because of a lack of space at its terminals.

KCS, Savage Services to construct Lake Charles-area railport

Savage Services and Kansas City Southern are working together to construct a multicommodity railport in Mossville, Louisiana, to serve refineries, chemical plants and other industries in the Lake Charles aea.

Savage will own and operate the railport, which will be on property leased by KCS KSU at its Mossville rail yard. The railport will have transload and railcar storage opportunities. Both expect the facility to be operational by January. 

The facility will have over 70 transloading spots, up from 40 spots already at the rail yard, and it will have 600 spots for railcar storage. The railport will provide customers with access to Mexico via KCS. 

Savage has roughly 50 multicommodity, rail-connected terminals across North America that are part of the company's transload network.

"We are excited about this partnership with Savage, as the Louisiana railport will provide additional rail capacity and new services for shippers in the Mossville and Lake Charles region, which will expand their supply chain choices and allow for more competitive shipping options," said KCS President and CEO Pat Ottensmeyer.

Trinity Industries, Wafra to form Signal Rail joint venture

Dallas-based railcar manufacturer and lessor Trinity Industries TRN and New York-headquartered global alternative investment manager Wafra have formed a joint venture to acquire Trinity's leased railcars.

The venture, Signal Rail Holdings, will invest in Trinity's leased railcars, with that investment leading to up to $1 billion in acquisitions over a three-year investment period. Funds managed by Wafra will own 90% of the joint venture, while Trinity's leasing company will own 10%. Trinity will service all the railcars owned by Signal Rail. 

As part of the deal, Signal Rail has acquired an initial portfolio of approximately 3,600 railcars. That acquisition closed Wednesday. 

"This joint venture brings together parties with aligned strategies of long-term investments in quality assets with high-quality investment partners like Wafra," Trinity President and CEO Jean Savage said. "We believe today's announcement underscores the attractive return and cash flow attributes of our railcar assets. This partnership is an important milestone in Trinity's long-term plan to optimize our balance sheet and amplify our return on equity."

"Wafra is pleased to launch this partnership with Trinity, an established market and thought leader in railcar leasing and manufacture," said Fawaz Al-Mubaraki, Wafra CEO. "Through this joint venture, Wafra builds on its portfolio of high-quality real asset investments. As long-term investors, we recognize the importance of forming partnerships with industry leaders like Trinity, as well as ensuring meaningful alignment as the basis of shared success. We look forward to growing our partnership with Trinity in the years ahead."

TTCI names new research VP

The Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI), an R&D company and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, has appointed Scott Cummings as assistant vice president of research and innovation.

In that role, Cummings will lead the Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program, which focuses on advancing technology and innovation in railroad operations, TTCI said. His responsibility will include reducing the implementation timeline of critical industry initiatives.

Cummings started working in 1997 as a mechanical engineer and became senior scientist in 2020. He has also served as project manager for SRI since 2009 and led SRI's mechanical research team since 2018. 

He has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University-Fort Collins and a master's in industrial and systems engineering from Colorado State University-Pueblo. He has authored over 100 technical research publications.

"The SRI program is the cornerstone of technology advancement in the North American railroad industry," said TTCI acting CEO Kari Gonzales. "We are looking forward to Scott enhancing industry collaboration by engaging key stakeholders to realign research objectives and prepare the rail industry for the demands of the future."

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