BNSF Railway on Monday announced plans to take over Montana Rail Link and its 900 miles of track in Montana and Idaho.
Missoula-based MRL, which has a small store in Billings and a rail yard in Laurel, employs about 1,200 people, the company said in a statement regarding the proposed deal.
The BNSF is committed to retaining all union and non-union MRL employees in their current jobs with pay, benefits, seniority and other similar terms of employment, MRL said.
“In recent years, more than 90% of the traffic crossing MRL’s leased line was loads moved on behalf of BNSF,” MRL officials said. “The line has become an essential link in BNSF’s northern transcontinental network, delivering grain, consumer products and industrial products to the West Coast. “
The agreement will eliminate the need for BNSF to switch freight between the two railways and will continue to “build supply chain resilience and improve rail capacity in the Pacific Northwest,” MRL said.
MRL was founded in 1987 by Dennis Washington. MRL and BNSF have had a unique lease agreement since 1987 in which MRL leases and operates BNSF-owned main tracks between Huntley, Montana and Sandpoint, Idaho.
BNSF will resume operations and maintenance of its main rail corridor through southern Montana. The deal must first be approved by the US Surface Transportation Board.
“There have been many changes in the rail industry since the signing of this long-term lease, and given the need to be competitive in today’s environment, we believe it was the right time to review our long-standing deal with BNSF, ”Derek said. Ollmann, President of MRL, “This agreement protects our workers, our customers and our long-term commitment to safety, and it will ensure a smoother operation of rail services in Montana. “
MRL will become a subdivision of the Montana division of BNSF, said Katie Farmer, president and CEO of BNSF.
“We will continue to invest in the business, provide excellent service and maintain the highest level of safety, as we have done for over a century in Montana,” Farmer said. “This will best position the employees, customers and communities we serve for future success. “
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