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About MRL

"The safety of our employees and the people in the communities we serve is our top priority - nothing else even comes close." -Tom Walsh, MRL President

Coal Facts


  • Currently MRL averages 16.8 total trains per day, of which 2.7 are loaded coal trains and 2.7 are empty
  • Potential future volume is determined by capacity. Studies indicate that, with significant infrastructure investment,  capacity could increase by an additional 8 loaded and 8 empty trains per day
  • Potential capacity is estimated to be a fraction of the number of trains quoted by various concerned citizen groups
  • Increased volume is not limited to coal. Due to population growth, increased consumption, driver shortages, and rising diesel costs; more freight will likely be moved by rail
  • Volume is expected to decrease 40% in 2016 due to various international and domestic market conditions


  • Coal dust issues are important due to concerns for employees, the communities served and infrastructure
  • Coal dust has primarily been confined to areas close to the mines. The BNSF requires the mines to spray cars with a topping agent (commonly called surfactant).  This, combined with chute loading, has been proven to significantly reduce coal dust events

Diesel Emissions

  • A freight train moves a ton of freight an average of 457 miles on a single gallon of fuel
  • One freight train is the equivalent of 350 semi-trucks
  • MRL has invested over $30 million in the past seven years to reduce diesel emissions and improve fuel efficiency by purchasing new, highly fuel efficient and low emission locomotives  and by installing auxiliary power units on our locomotives to reduce engine idling


  • MRL’s goal is to minimize impact to the communities served while working to limit crossing delays 
  • MRL works closely with emergency response personnel to ensure awareness of crossing delays
  • An 800 number is available to connect concerned citizens with our dispatch staff;  800-498-4838

Economic Impact

  • MRL employs nearly 1,200 people from Huntley, MT to Sandpoint, ID
  • Nearly 90% of employees are union with an average annual wage of $75,000
  • Total payroll was $80 million
  • 124 MRL jobs and $9 million of payroll were directly attributed to moving coal trains in 2015
  • With an increase of 8 additional loaded and 8 empty trains per day, employment levels would increase by nearly 500 jobs and $40 million in payroll
  • Montana Rail Link was assessed more than $9 million in property tax to the state of Montana in 2015; employees paid nearly $4.5 million in Montana state income tax

For further information, please contact: 

Jim Lewis

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