CSX Corporation today announced first quarter net earnings of $449 million, or $0.43 per share, versus $395 million, or $0.35 per share, in the same period last year.

This represents a 23 percent year-over-year improvement in earnings per share.

“CSX is off to a fast start in a year that will be dynamic and challenging,” said Michael J. Ward, chairman, president and chief executive officer.

“A significant majority of our transportation markets are performing very well and our operations are delivering excellent results.”

Revenue in the quarter improved 6 percent from the prior year to nearly $3 billion, driven by increased volume, pricing gains and fuel recovery.

Overall volume was up 1 percent in the quarter when compared to the same period last year.

Increased shipments in merchandise and intermodal more than offset declines in the company’s coal business.

The higher revenue coupled with the company’s focus on service, productivity and cost control drove an 11 percent increase in operating income to a first quarter record $856 million and a record first quarter operating ratio of 71.1 percent, a 140 basis point improvement year-over-year.

“Although utility coal-related headwinds are likely to be stronger in the second quarter, CSX remains on track to achieve year-over-year earnings growth in 2012,” said Ward.