News & Reviews News Wire Competition from CPKC makes the rail industry better, CEO Keith Creel says

Competition from CPKC makes the rail industry better, CEO Keith Creel says

By Bill Stephens | November 17, 2023

New and faster cross-border intermodal service will win market share from trucks even as CPKC goes head to head with Union Pacific, BNSF, CN, and Ferromex

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Four Kansas City Southern units lead a northbound container train across the Rio Grande and into the United States at Laredo, Texas, in November 2017. Bill Stephens

NEW YORK — Canadian Pacific Kansas City CEO Keith Creel is not the least bit surprised at how rival Class I railroads have responded to the CP-KCS merger by launching new and faster cross-border intermodal service.

“We’re creating competition and this industry is getting stronger as a result,” Creel told the RailTrends conference on Thursday.

CPKC’s flagship Mexico Midwest Express intermodal service, which began in May, is taking trucks off the highway and has created the first cross-border intermodal perishables moves using the railway’s 1,000 new reefer containers.

“I knew that we needed a proof point. I knew that we needed something that showed the power of this single-line network … from Chicago deep into Mexico,” Creel says.

The first CPKC MMX-181 intermodal train approaches a celebratory banner on CPKC de Mexico in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on May 11. the Mexico Midwest Express service links Chicago and points in Mexico. CPKC

“So we introduced the MMX with a mandate and an objective to make it truck-like reliable, best in class, truck-competitive service,” he says. Trains 180 and 181 are providing 95% on-time reliability with a transit time of just under four days between Chicago and Monterrey, Mexico.

The MMX service prompted Canadian National, Union Pacific, and Ferromex to team up for Falcon Premium service that links CN’s terminals in Canada and Detroit with points in Mexico. Like MMX, the service was launched in May. New UP CEO Jim Vena subsequently took 24 hours out of the schedule after he rejoined the railroad in August.

BNSF Railway and intermodal partner J.B. Hunt this week announced that on Jan. 1 they’re shifting their cross-border service away from CPKC and the Laredo, Texas, gateway to a Ferromex routing via the Eagle Pass, Texas, gateway.

The service via Eagle Pass will be 24 hours faster than the current Chicago-Monterrey route, BNSF and J.B. Hunt say. The route is 5% shorter between Monterrey and BNSF’s terminal in Alliance, Texas, where traffic can be routed to various destinations on the BNSF system. CPKC will continue to handle J.B. Hunt traffic bound to and from the Southeast via the Meridian Speedway and Norfolk Southern.

“The UP, they’ve introduced their service. They’ve always had the best route to the border, but they never had the best transit time. Now they’re inspired to compete and are matching, with their combined three-line move, similar transit times,” Creel says. “And then … BNSF and J.B. Hunt got into the fray, too. And they are shaving time off their existing transit times. So you’ve got three railroads that are motivated, that are inspired.”

Creel says Class I railroads got complacent after the last round of mergers two decades ago.

“When you’re not challenged — and this is human nature, this is railroading nature, this is any business nature, this is competitive sport nature, this is just a fact of life — sometimes complacency can set in,” Creel says. “And this industry is in a place where we needed to be better. We need to be better for all stakeholders, not just our own, but for this nation.”

The rail competition will extend to automotive and merchandise traffic, as well, Creel says.

With 10,000 trucks crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at Laredo every day, Creel says there is plenty of business to go around for CPKC, UP, and BNSF to all be successful.

The RailTrends conference is sponsored by trade publication Progressive Railroading and independent analyst Anthony B. Hatch.

6 thoughts on “Competition from CPKC makes the rail industry better, CEO Keith Creel says

  1. Mr. Rice: If in fact #181 is scheduled to operate across the Elgin Sub within 2 hours of the beginning of the Metra morning peak, and the scenario I presented actually happens, given the high priority of #181 I believe the CP train dispatcher will be told to keep #181 going and hope that the Metra operation will not be badly effected.

    1. 3 crossovers between Big Timber and Bensenville. 2 of them are hosted separately, one in a yard in Schaumburg. You don’t think that CPKC can do an intermediate switch of a consist over in time before the first Metra train arrives at Big Timber?

      BNSF seems to have no problem intermediate switch Metra trains around slow freights all the time, (UP is getting better)

      I thought you had a real life example to share. Perhaps next time.

  2. Keith Creel… Creator of World Peace, Good Will toward men and Savior of the North American Rail Industry. Don’t believe it? Just ask him…

    He was right about one thing though…The Class One’s were complacent and still are and forever will be as long as their “customer” is on Wall Street and not on the rails to the last mile, or in their work forces who they continue to treat like a necessary evil…

    1. “Keith Creel… Creator of World Peace, Good Will toward men and Savior of the North American Rail Industry. Don’t believe it? Just ask him…”

      You forgot about the his playing a video of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” by Ethel Merman at the start of every stockholder meeting…..

  3. Anyone know what time #181 is s scheduled to enter Metra territory at Big Timber Road? And what time it’s westbound counterpart, #180, is scheduled to depart Bensenville Yard? If the time entering at Big Timber is say one-two hours before the AM Metra begins and #181 is running late but immediate handling will allow an on time arrival at Bensenville and CPKS has operational control we can be pretty sure what the CP Elgin Sub train dispatcher will be told by the chief dispatcher.

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