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Norfolk Southern Corp. this morning reported first-quarter 2015 net income dropped 16 percent to $310 million compared with the same period a year ago. Diluted earnings per share were $1.00 compared with $1.17 per share in first-quarter 2014.The results reflect a weak coal market as well as a slowdown in network velocity caused in part by severe winter weather, which also affected the company's expenses and volumes, said NS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman in a press release."Looking ahead, while the market uncertainties remain, the resources that we are deploying are driving improved network performance, and we expect our service levels will be significantly higher in the second half," he said.Income from railway operations declined 9 percent to $606 million compared with the same period a year ago. Lower fuel costs helped drive down operating expenses by 3 percent to $2 billion.Operating revenue fell 5 percent to $2.6 billion in the quarter compared with the year-ago period as a result of lower fuel surcharge revenue in each of the three commodity groups, lower coal volumes and lower average revenue per unit related to the mix of business, NS officials said.Total volume increased 2 percent, or 40,000 units, reflecting gains in intermodal and merchandise traffic.General merchandise revenue was $1.5 billion, down 2 percent compared with first-quarter 2014. Volume grew 3 percent, led by increases in chemicals and automotive shipments.While intermodal revenue slipped 1 percent to $592 million compared with first-quarter 2014, growth in international and domestic business pushed traffic volume up 5 percent. Company officials attributed the 16 percent decrease in coal revenue — which totaled $455 million for the quarter — to a weak global export market and fewer coal shipments to utilities. Coal volumes were down by 7 percent for the quarter.NS' operating ratio rose to 76.4 for the quarter compared with 75.2 in first-quarter 2014.
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