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BNSF taking over Montana Rail Link operations as lease ends

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Posted at 7:41 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 10:28:44-05

MISSOULA — BNSF Railway is taking over operations and maintenance of Montana Rail Link following the end of a long-term lease with the company.

A letter to MRL employees Monday from President Derek Ollmann states the decision was "made after a great deal of thought including securing BNSF's commitment to continue employment for all MRL employees."

Based in Missoula, the company was created in 1987 and currently employs 1,200 people. It touts over 900 route miles stretching from Billings to Sandpoint, Idaho. But Monday's letter states the freight environment has evolved and over 90 percent of the volume moving on MRL is on BNSF trains.

By MRL ending its lease and BNSF resuming operation of its line, BNSF will eliminate the need to interchange freight between the two railroads, according to a press release.

"BNSF operating the line as part of their network will ensure competitive access to global markets while continuing to provide the consistent and reliable service for our customers," Ollmann wrote in the letter to employees.

The letter also states MRL is thrilled BNSF is committed to retaining MRL's entire workforce and that both companies will be in touch with union leadership to start negotiations.

"It is our hope that union leadership will take full stock of the seniority and experience offered by our workforce and will come to terms allowing our employees to work their same jobs under the same or similar circumstances they enjoy today."