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Union Pacific Railroad sent a letter to customers on Wednesday stressing that the Class I expects to be better prepared to handle difficult winter operating conditions than it was last year.In response to higher overall demand in 2014 and significant weather events that affected service throughout the year — including earthquakes, floods and severe storms — UP has added crews and locomotives. Since last fall, the train, engine and yard (TE&Y) workforce grew by more than 800."We also have increased hiring to roughly double our original plan. We now expect to hire about 3,200 TE&Y employees for the full year to cover attrition and growth," UP officials wrote.The railroad also has increased its active locomotive fleet by 850 units since last fall by taking units out of storage and acquiring new motive power."Our strong pipeline of crews and locomotives are expected to contribute to continued network improvement," UP officials wrote.In addition, the Class I expects to gain improved operational performance from the completion of the Tower 55 project near Fort Worth, Texas. UP worked with other railroads, the city and regional governments to rebuild and upgrade the nation's busiest rail intersection. Tower 55 now can accommodate up to 135 trains per day versus a maximum of 110 a year ago, UP officials wrote, adding that the new configuration will alleviate congestion and enhance train flow.The railroad also began its winter planning process two months earlier than normal and incorporated improvements based on lessons learned from last winter, UP officials said. At seven locations across its Northern Region, the railroad plans to establish 24-hour winter response command centers that will be open from the end of November through early April 2015."Each command center is taking a bottom-up approach to reviewing winter weather response plans to ensure we have resources and response plans in place across the network," UP officials wrote. "The command centers will allow us to respond quicker when we experience winter operating issues."The Class I also plans to work closely with other Chicago-area railroads to trigger operational changes when weather conditions warrant.
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