Norfolk Southern, CN to share north-south routes
Norfolk Southern Railway and Canadian National Railway announced Tuesday a tentative agreement to share track between Chicago, St. Louis, Kentucky and Mississippi to create shorter and faster routes for coal and merchandise moving between the Midwest and the Southeast.
The MidAmerica Corridor initiative is the latest leg in Norfolk Southern’s multicorridor strategy designed to speed up rail shipments on high-volume lanes by improving or expanding rail lines.
Under the agreement, Norfolk Southern will haul CN freight between Chicago and St. Louis, shaving 60 miles off the normal CN route and improving connections to other rail carriers in St. Louis, according to the companies.
Norfolk Southern will use CN routes between St. Louis and Fulton, Ky., to save more than 50 miles of travel.
CN will also haul Norfolk Southern freight between Chicago and Fulton, shortening the Chicago-to-Birmingham route by almost 100 miles.
As part of the MidAmerica Corridor, CN and NS plan to create a new coal gateway in Corinth, Miss., to better link Norfolk Southern-served utility plants in the Southeast with CN-served coal producers in the Illinois basin.
A key component of the new initiative will be upgrading the West Tennessee Railroad between Fulton and Corinth to handle heavier shipments and additional traffic, the railroads said.
“This innovative track-sharing arrangement will expedite our customers’ shipments, improve asset utilization and generate new efficiencies for both CN and Norfolk Southern,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CN chief executive officer.
Completion of the deal, including obtaining approval for the exchange of trackage rights from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, is expected in several months.
Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern is developing plans for its $2 billion-plus “Crescent Corridor” stretching from sites near both Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans to New Jersey. The project would add track, rail sidings, signal improvements and other upgrades to remove bottlenecks in an effort to capture more trucking business that relies on major north-south interstate highways.
The Meridian Speedway is a joint venture with the Kansas City Southern railway under which Norfolk Southern obtained access rights to the line between Meridian, Miss., and Shreveport, La., in exchange for investing $300 million for capacity improvements. The venture speeds up a coast-to-coast intermodal service run in conjunction with western partner Union Pacific.
Heartland Corridor is a public-private partnership between Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and the federal government to raise tunnel clearances to accommodate double-stack intermodal trains and create a more direct route that shaves a half-day transit time between Columbus and the Port of Norfolk. Work is on schedule to be completed in 2010.
Last year, the Norfolk Southern reached an agreement with short-line operator Pan Am Railways to create a joint venture to improve freight rail service from Boston to Albany, N.Y. The service will use Pan Am’s 400 miles of main, secondary and branch lines while Norfolk Southern is contributing more than $220 million in capitol improvements and existing assets such as rolling stock in exchange for trackage rights. The companies also plan to build intermodal and automotive terminals in Albany. ' Eric Kulisch