UP to suspend eastbound rail traffic between US west coast, Chicago to help clear container backlog

Adam Yanelli


HOUSTON (ICIS)–Union Pacific Railroad will temporarily suspend eastbound movement from West Coast port terminals to Chicago beginning Sunday and lasting for seven days in an effort to ease inland congestion.

The suspension includes containers from the California ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Tacoma, Washington.

Container processing at port terminals in southern California has increased amid economic growth following lockdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

UP’s rail shipments to and from the ports have risen and are near record highs, the company said, and the railroad is concurrently experiencing significant congestion at its inland intermodal terminals, most notably in Chicago.

UP’s Global IV Intermodal terminal is in Joliet, Illinois, just west of Chicago.

“We believe this change will allow the transportation supply chain to begin working off the backlog of Global IV-destined trains, while freeing up railcar assets to support import loading needs on the West Coast,” UP said in a statement.

The railroad said it has been working closely with ocean carriers “to encourage more rapid out gating of boxes at inland terminals.”

UP has offered to open its Global III facility in Rochelle, Illinois, to use for interim storage of containers.

In the US, chemical railcar loadings represent about 20% of chemical transportation by tonnage, with trucks, barges and pipelines carrying the rest.

And while most chemicals are liquids and are moved in tank cars, containers are used to transport polymers such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which are shipped in pellets.

Click here to view the ICIS Coronavirus, oil price crash – impact on chemicals topic page. 

Thumbnail image shows a railroad track heading into the fog/Shutterstock


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