On the Norfolk Southern Q3 earnings call, much of the Q&A period with analysts focused on NSC’s intermodal franchise: The railroad hauls more intermodal containers as a percentage of its overall volumes than any other railroad, and on an absolute-volume basis, much more than its eastern competitor CSX.We were encouraged by EVP and COO Cindy Sanborn and EVP and CMO Alan Shaw’s comments on the future prospects of Norfolk Southern’s intermodal business. Sanborn is bringing renewed attention to PSR-driven metrics like railcar velocity and is further rationalizing the intermodal network by reducing the number of hump yards — important because each stop represents a risk of congestion, human error and ultimately delay.Meanwhile, Shaw emphasized Norfolk Southern’s orientation toward consumer freight and the new services the railroad would introduce to grow the franchise through next year.“Strength in the consumer is where NS is positioned and where we excel,” Shaw said on the call. Between new productivity and service metrics, further rationalization of the network, and new services and products to generate more demand, Norfolk Southern’s management affirmed a commitment to growing intermodal as a core strength of the railroad.
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