Union Pacific furloughs more because of lower shipping volumes

from Omaha.com

Union Pacific Corp. has now furloughed a total of 900 employees and mothballed 800 locomotives because of lower shipping volumes, CEO Lance Fritz told the Wall Street Journal.

The slump includes a 25 percent reduction in coal shipments from last year as more power plants switch to natural gas, a trend that could continue, he said. “The remainder of the year, we don’t know what to expect.”

The Omaha-based railroad had furloughed 500 people and idled 47 locomotives in April. U.P. employs a total of 47,000.

The furloughs are for an indefinite period, company spokesman Mark Davis said. Some furloughed workers receive no pay or benefits. Others work and train part time and maintain their certification so they can be called back to work more quickly.

In 2009 the company furloughed as many as 5,300 workers because of the economic recession, Davis said.

Last year Union Pacific expanded its transportation workforce and added 822 locomotives as cargo volume increased 7 percent, improving service levels dramatically, Fritz said.

He also said that railroads are working to install the rail safety system called positive train control but won’t finish installing it by this year’s deadline. Union Pacific has spent $1.7 billion on its part of the system and will spend an additional $800 million to complete the installation.

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