BARSTOW • BNSF employees working in Bakersfield may have to move closer to Barstow as part of an effort to increase personnel at the local terminal.

Train operators in Bakersfield received notices in September that BNSF plans to change its home terminal from Bakersfield to Barstow, according to railway spokesperson Lena Kent. Kent said she didn't know exactly how many employees this would affect, but once the change is complete, workers would have to live within an hour-and-a-half's drive of Barstow.

The notice of intent is the railway's first step in transferring train operators from one terminal to another, Kent said. The next step is for BNSF officials to meet with unions representing the railway's employees. A timeline for the move has not been set yet.

Turning Barstow into a home terminal and increasing the number of employees at the rail yard would allow BNSF to respond better to delays, Kent said. Trains coming through Barstow — some traveling from as far as Chicago — are delayed more often than trains coming through Bakersfield. And more trains come through Barstow than Bakersfield, she said.

"It comes down to crew availability," she said. "We need to have crews available to operate the trains. We would have more people in Barstow than in Bakersfield."

Bakersfield would still operate as an away terminal with employees staying at hotels between shifts. Some of the more senior employees may not be affected by the move, Kent said.

Changing Barstow to a "home" terminal will not affect those who do maintenance work for the railway.

Officials with the United Transportation Union, which represents conductors, engineers, switchmen and other railroad employees, couldn't go into further detail about how their employees would be affected by proposed transfer.

"Right now it's in its preliminary stages," said Daniel  Young, an alternate vice president with the union. "None of us really know a lot about it."

Representatives with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which also represents train engineers, conductors, brakemen and other railroad employees, could not be reached Thursday.

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