A new $8.1m railroad side track is being built in the US state of Missouri to increase freight capacity and reduce delays.

The 9,000ft side track on the route between Kansas City and St Louis will be used for slower freight trains, allowing passenger trains to travel with less disruption.

It is hoped that it will reduce annual delays by about 17%.

Missouri Department of Transportation director Pete Rahn said: “Improvements like this will ease congestion on the railroad tracks across Missouri and enhance our state’s quality of life, by making passenger rail a more reliable option and increasing our global competitiveness as the flow of freight rail traffic improves.”

The project, to be completed by December 2010, will accommodate the 1.5-mile long Union Pacific coal trains that haul low-sulphur coal from Wyoming to power companies in St Louis and eastern power generation units.

Union Pacific has invested more than $400m since 1999 on this corridor in track capacity and maintenance projects.

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