By Stacie Hamel, Omaha World-Herald, Neb. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 14--Still struggling to overcome more than a year of congestion and service delays, Union Pacific Railroad closed out 2004 with its slowest average train speed since records began in 1999.
As if to punctuate that performance, 2005 has begun with the nation's largest railroad beset by severe storm damage in the West, halting traffic to and from the Los Angeles Basin and its international port complex. Although three of the railroad's five major routes reopened Thursday, U.P. said capacity from Los Angeles to the east would be reduced by one-third for "an extended period."
The renewed snarls contrast with the optimistic note a U.P. executive sounded in September while meeting with shippers, saying service on the troubled railroad had begun to turn the corner.
September's average train speed, in fact, reached 22.3 mph, its fastest …