Norfolk Southern reports Q4 2020 and Full-Year 2020 earnings

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Norfolk Southern reached out for community input and went the extra mile for a rail transfer facility in Atlanta.
Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern Corporation today reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 financial results.

Fourth-quarter net income was $671 million, diluted earnings per share were $2.64, and the operating ratio improved to an all-time quarterly record of 61.8%. Full-year net income was $2.0 billion, diluted earnings per share were $7.84 and the operating ratio was 69.3%. During the first quarter of 2020, Norfolk Southern reported a $385 million non-cash locomotive rationalization charge, and in the third quarter of 2020 reported a $99 million non-cash investment impairment charge. Excluding these non-cash charges, adjusted full-year net income was $2.4 billion, adjusted diluted earnings per share were $9.25, and the adjusted operating ratio improved to 64.4% versus the record of 64.7% set in 2019.

“During a year of unprecedented market disruption and uncertainty, the Norfolk Southern team delivered record productivity levels while providing safe and reliable freight solutions for our customers,” said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. “As we take stock of what we achieved in 2020 while managing both the pandemic and energy market challenges, including the successful idling of four additional hump operations while driving productivity to record levels, we see much more opportunity ahead. We have set the stage to drive further efficiency and profitable growth in 2021 through our precision scheduled railroading operating plan, which will deliver long-term value for both our shareholders and customers.” 

Fourth-quarter summary


  • Railway operating revenues of $2.6 billion decreased 4% compared with fourth-quarter 2019, driven by a 1% decline in volume, lower fuel surcharges, and differing business mix.
  • Railway operating expenses were $1.6 billion, a decrease of 8%, or $139 million, compared with the same period last year. Lower fuel costs, compensation and benefits, and purchased services were partially offset by lower gains on property sales.
  • Income from railway operations was $1.0 billion, an increase of 2%, or $22 million, year-over-year. The railway operating ratio was 61.8%, an all-time record.

2020 summary


  • Railway operating revenues of $9.8 billion declined 13% as volume was down 12% year-over-year, reflecting declines in all major commodity categories driven by the global pandemic.
  • Railway operating expenses of $6.8 billion decreased $520 million, or 7%, compared with last year. Lower fuel costs, compensation and benefits, purchased services, and materials costs were partially offset by a $385 million non-cash locomotive rationalization charge as well as a $99 million non-cash impairment charge related to an equity-method investment.
    • Excluding the non-cash locomotive rationalization and investment impairment charges, adjusted operating expenses declined by $1.0 billion, or 14%, compared to last year.
  • Income from railway operations was $3.0 billion and the operating ratio was 69.3%.
    • Excluding the non-cash locomotive rationalization and investment impairment charges, adjusted income from railway operations was $3.5 billion, while the adjusted operating ratio improved to 64.4% versus the record of 64.7% set in 2019.

For more information from NS’s report today, please visit their website.

Links to other Class 1 Q4 earnings reports

Canadian Pacific reports Q4 2020 and full-year earnings results

Union Pacific reports Q4 2020 and full-year 2020 earnings results

Canadian National reports Q4 2020 and full-year 2020 earnings results

Kansas City Southern reports Q4 2020 and full-year 2020 earnings results

CSX reports Q4 2020 results

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Intermodal, News, Railroad News
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