UPDATED: BNSF changes halt Cold Train serviceCold Train Express Intermodal Service, a rail service provided by the Port of Quincy, Wash., Intermodal Terminal, has suspended all shipments following a BNSF Railway decision to reduce intermodal service.

An official from Cold Train, which ships apples and other produce commodities six days a week on BNSF tracks from Washington to 24 states and Canada, said recent changes by the railroad led to less on-time service and longer service from Washington to Chicago.

Because of increased rail congestion on BNSF’s Northern Corridor line due to more oil and coal shipments, the railroad’s on-time percentage fell from more than 90% in November to less than 5% in April, according to Cold Train.

In addition, since April, when BNSF announced it would reduce intermodal train service from Washington, loads have taken up to six days instead of three days to get from Quincy to Chicago.

As of Aug. 11, it was uncertain when service might resume, the Cold Train official said.

“We are working with BNSF and the Port of Quincy to determine the viability of resuming service.”

Cold Train was launched in 2010 by Overland Park, Kan.-based Rail Logistics. Both fresh and frozen produce are shipped via a fleet of more than 400 refrigerated containers.

Apples are the biggest fresh commodity shipped on Cold Train. Other fresh commodities include potatoes and onions.

Cold Train shipments grew from 100 containers per month in 2010 to 700 containers per month in 2013.

In a letter to Port of Quincy president Curt Morris, Kirk Mayer, manager of the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Washington Growers Clearing House, said Washington growers were very concerned about losing access to Cold Train service.

Use of the Cold Train by Washington apple shippers had been increasing, Mayer said.

“Reducing rail service and increasing deliver time will make it next to impossible for a perishable crop, such as tree fruit, to use rail service,” he said.

Given that Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, has made carbon emissions reduction a priority with the recent creation of a task force, Mayer said, maintaining rail service should be a priority.

In his letter to the Port of Quincy, Charles Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee-based Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, said that prior to the BNSF changes, he had expected tree fruit shipments on Cold Train to double in the 2014-15 season.

“Apple and pear shippers will be scrambling to find other transportation options to ship cargo eastbound from Washington State at a time when over-the-road transportation is already experiencing extreme shortages causing delays and lost sales opportunities,” Pomianek said.