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Coal rail traffic soars 26.8% YOY in latest week; production climbs 18.5%

Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week ended April 1 soared 26.8% year over year to 78,665 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads.

Year-to-date coal rail traffic represented a 16.8% increase through the week, while overall rail traffic increased 7.2% year over year to 527,665 carloads and intermodal units.

"Railroading is not for the faint of heart, as markets are continually changing and railroads have to adapt to changing circumstances," AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray said. "Despite recent increases, in absolute terms rail coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and rail crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago."

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BNSF Railway Co. clocked in at 35,487 carloads in the week that ended April 1, up from last week's 34,089 carloads, and surged 38.4% compared to the year-ago week.

Union Pacific Corp.'s coal shipment volumes this week were at 18,194 carloads, down from 19,952 carloads last week but up 32.7% compared to last year's weekly volume.

Eastern railroad CSX Transportation Inc.'s coal shipment volumes stood at 13,330 carloads, down from last week's 15,824 carloads, and slid 16.5% compared to the same week in 2016.

Norfolk Southern Corp.'s coal shipment volumes totaled 20,250 carloads for the week, up from last week's 20,037 carloads, and soaring 44.7% compared to the same week a year ago.

Kansas City Southern Railway Co.'s latest weekly coal shipment volume showed 2,319 carloads, down from 2,667 carloads the previous week. The railroad serves 10 U.S. states and Mexico.

Year-to-date output gains 15.5% YOY

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total U.S. coal production for the week increased 18.5% year over year to 14.5 million tons, compared to 12.2 million tons during the same period last year.

For the 52 weeks that ended April 1, production was reported at approximately 765.2 million tons, representing a 7.7% year-over-year contraction, while year-to-date coal output increased 15.5% year over year to about 201.7 million tons through April 1.

The western region's coal production for the week reached 7.7 million tons and posted an 18.5% year-over-year increase from the prior year's 6.5 million tons. Data for the Western region covers Powder River Basin mines.

Coal production from Appalachian mines totaled 3.7 million tons, up 19.3% from the year-ago week's 3.1 million tons.

The interior region's production rose 17.3% to 3.1 million tons, compared to 2.6 million tons a year ago. Interior region data covers mines in the Illinois Basin.

The EIA's production data is derived from rail carload estimates.

Data collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence from railroads indicates both cars originated on their lines during the week and cars received from a connecting railroad during the same week.