Railway continues expansion

The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe expansion of the Clovis rail yard has created 60 new conductor positions. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Jack King

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway has hired 60 new people as a result of its recent expansion, “90 percent” of whom are from Clovis, a BNSF spokeswoman said.
Spokeswoman Lena Kent said the company has hired 60 new conductors as a result of the expansion. She said the 90 percent figure means about 54 of those were Clovis residents.
“But I only have the 90 percent figure. It could be 53 or 55,” she said.
Conductors are train personnel who relay instructions from dispatchers, switch foremen and yard masters, operate switches to change the route of a train, set and release hand brakes in the yard and perform other duties having to do with the movement of the train along the track. He or she is jointly responsible for the train with the engineer.
Kent said BNSF has not hired any carmen, the railroad workers who rehabilitate cars and track, and that she couldn’t comment on the reasons.
Asked by the News-Journal if BNSF plans to subcontract out the work to private companies, but is still in negotiations with the companies, Kent said, “That is possible. But I can’t comment at this time.”
Matt Barela, a veterans employment representative at the state Department of Labor’s Clovis office, said Thursday two private companies, Loram and Progressive Rail, are in Clovis, planning to do car and rail repair. Loram has hired no employees, although it is preparing to do so. Progressive Rail has hired 34 local people, Barela said.
Barela said he has no record that BNSF has hired any local people. However, the company hires employees directly through its Web site, and it could have hired people without a record at the Department of Labor, he said.
According to an agreement that approved the closing of the Wheaton Street railroad crossing, adopted by the city commission on May 18 and the county commission on May 19, BNSF has stated its expansion project is estimated to cost $15 million.
The expansion “may create the opportunity for up to 80 new jobs in the Clovis/Curry County area,” but the railroad does not guarantee a number, according to a draft of the agreement provided by the city.
BNSF has agreed to pay 10 percent of the cost of an overpass at State Highway 467, up to but not to exceed $500,000, and to work with the state and other parties to develop plans for the overpass.
It also agreed to pay $5,000 each to the city and county to cover the cost of barricades and signs required for the closure, the agreement states.
Kent said BNSF has not finished its expansion work and, therefore, doesn’t have a final cash amount for the project. However, the railroad still figures the expansion will cost $15 million.
Plans for the overpass have not been finalized and BNSF has not yet been asked to make a contribution, she said.