Only 10 days after publicly criticizing Union Pacific Railroad for its poor service, Huntsman Corp. said Thursday that the railroad is showing signs of improvement.

Peter R. Huntsman, president and chief operating officer of the Huntsman Corp., based in Salt Lake City, said in a release Thursday that he is "encouraged" by signs that U.P.'s service is improving after a year of problems stemming from its merger with former rival Southern Pacific Railroad."Rail service since the UP/ SP merger has been a major con-cern for our company," said Huntsman. "However, we always have felt that eventually Union Pacific would turn the difficulties around. It still is early in that process but we are encouraged by what we have seen most recently."

On March 31, Jon Huntsman Jr., vice president of the corporation, told the U.S. Senate's surface transportation subcommittee that his company has had numerous problems in Texas, including a derailment of $100,000 worth of plastic pellets near Roscoe, a two-week plant shutdown in Port Neches, and bottlenecks to and from a factory in Odessa.

"Rail cars have been unable to get past the Fort Worth choke-point," Jon Huntsman Jr. told the subcommittee.

UP's purchase of SP was opposed by the Justice Department but approved by the Sur-face Transportation Board. It gave the merged company control over a 36,000-mile network of tracks, stretching from Los Angeles to New Orleans and north to Chicago.

But shippers said rail service across the West began to deteriorate last summer after Union Pacific began merging its rail lines with Southern Pacific's and fired hundreds of employees.

Other witnesses told the Senate subcommittee that the cost to farmers and businesses from clogged Union Pacific tracks was now reaching into the billions of dollars.

But Peter Huntsman said Thursday that more rail cars are now available, allowing the company to begin operating its plants at full capacity. He also noted that transit time for products shipped to customers has improved and that the railroad's customer service representatives have been more re-spon-sive to the company's concerns and have provided better information.