Indiana Rail Road chases intermodal container traffic

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otr-train-081913-15col.jpg Indiana Rail invested more than $2.5 million equipping its Senate Avenue terminal to handle intermodal containers.(Photo courtesy of Ports of Indiana)

Competing in the intermodal business for the first time, Indiana Rail Road Co. hopes to lure cargo from Asia to its Senate Avenue terminal south of downtown with quick travel times.

Indiana Rail, a regional line based in Indianapolis, has struck a deal with Canadian National Railway that creates the first all-rail route from the west coast of Canada to Indianapolis, bypassing the bottleneck in Chicago.

“We can create a more reliable supply chain,” said Eric Powell, intermodal and economic development manager for Indiana Rail.

The intermodal service launched July 1, and the shippers who have used it so far are seeing their containers full of heavy equipment and consumer goods travel from China to Indianapolis in 23 days, Powell said. As volume and thus, efficiency, increases, Powell thinks the trip will be cut to 20 days.

Indiana Rail is handling about 50 imported containers a week, but Powell hopes to see the volume triple soon.

Powell added that it’s unusual in the railroad industry for a heavyweight like Canadian National to partner with a regional line. Canadian National handles the containers from either the Port of Vancouver or Prince Rupert to a rail junction in Newton, Ill., where Indiana Rail picks them up and brings them to Indianapolis. The containers are trucked from here to their final destinations.

Indiana Rail invested more than $2.5 million equipping its Senate Avenue terminal to handle containers, Powell said. The firm’s main business is industrial cargo for contract customers that include Duke Energy and Indianapolis Power and Light.

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