Railroads ready to grow, CSX's Ward says

Railroads ready to grow, CSX's Ward says

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Railroads have weathered the worst of the economic downturn and the problems of integrating new acquisitions and are prepared to compete for increased business, CSX Corp.'s top executive said.

Michael J. Ward, CSX's chairman, president and chief executive spoke at TransComp 2003, the combined annual meeting of the National Industrial Transportation League, the Intermodal Association of North America and the fall meeting of the Transportation Intermediaries Association.

"The economy does appear to be rebounding," he said. "At our company, we're poised for it to really start growing."

He urged his audience, dominated by shippers, intermodal marketing companies and third-party logistics providers, to consider rail shipment when possible. "We would love to take trucks off the highway," he said. "We know there are some places where we can do that logically and we also know there are some places where rail doesn't make sense."

Ward said CSX is working to improve schedule reliability, a sore point for many rail shippers, and to become more flexible in adapting to market changes and opportunities.

"Railroads have a reputation to be difficult to do business with and we're working on that," he said. But he added: "I've never seen the industry so focused on the customer and we have to build upon that."

Ward said the rail industry must cooperate to win government cooperation. "If we bicker among ourselves, it's hard to mobilize the government," he said. "We need to focus on putting aside our small differences and become the lifeblood of the economy. Without us, this world would be a much, much worse place."

"Intermodal is a really critical piece of that growth opportunity," he added. For the rail industry to achieve its third consecutive year of growth, he said, "We need to put our heads together and really hit that 'three-peat.'"