BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) announced its 2021 capital investment plan of $2.99 billion, down slightly from 2020. This year’s CAPEX focuses on projects to support company growth and efficiency objectives, while maintaining a strong and reliable railroad, according to a news release.
“Every year through our capital plan, we work to ensure we are able to continue to operate a safe and efficient rail network, provide our customers with the level of service they have come to expect from BNSF as well as position ourselves for future growth opportunities,” said Katie Farmer, president and CEO.
The largest component of this year’s capital plan will be a $2.41 billion maintenance spend to replace and maintain BNSF’s core network and related assets, much like last year’s $3.08 billion capital program.
Maintaining the railroad results in less unscheduled service outages that can slow down the rail network and reduce capacity, according to the news report.
The projects included in the maintenance plan mostly entail replacing and upgrading rail as well as track infrastructure like ballast and rail ties, the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate, and maintaining its rolling stock.
It will include nearly 11,000 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work and the replacement of 428 miles of rail and approximately 2.6 million rail ties.
Approximately $400 million of this year’s capital plan will be for expansion and efficiency projects. On its Southern Transcon route between the West Coast and the Midwest, BNSF will continue a multi-year effort to add several segments of new double-track in eastern Kansas. Once fully completed, BNSF will have 50 miles of additional main track to supporttraffic growth. In addition, in the Pacific Northwest, BNSF will continue a multi-year bridge project near Sandpoint, Idaho to increase train capacity. About $180 million of this year’s capital plan is for freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.
During an online meeting of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS), Farmer told attendees that BNSF will expand Positive Train Control (PTC) on subdivisions that are not now mandated by the federal government. PTC had previously been implemented on all subdivisions that carry designated commodities or passenger trains. Farmer said “we believe that every train that operates with PTC is a safer train.”