Norfolk Southern discontinues local line

Published 10:22 am Friday, April 4, 2014

FRANKLIN—Running and maintaining the freight rail through Southampton, Franklin and Isle of Wight County has become too costly for Norfolk Southern Railway Co. After stating its case before the Surface Transportation Board, that company will discontinue its service effective Saturday, April 12.

In response to questions from The Tidewater News, Robin Chapman, director of public relations in Virginia for Norfolk Southern Corp., forwarded the details from the SFB.

Chapman explained the board is “the federal agency that oversees regulated commercial activities of the railroad industry. When a railroad proposes discontinuing service on a line, the STB must approve. In this case, Norfolk Southern petitioned the STB to exempt it from a more extensive formal proceeding on the basis that no objections have been raised, and the STB approved the exemption.”

That petition to be exempted was filed Nov. 26, 2013, and granted March 12.

Originally the line was created as a route from the Tidewater region to Danville in the 1800s by then Atlantic and Danville Railway. Eventually it became part of NSR in 1983. The line is 53.2 miles in length, and also includes the city of Emporia, Greensville County, the town of Edgerton and Brunswick County.

NSR said that railway has become a financial burden both on the company and interstate commerce.

Costs to operate and maintain the line far exceed any money that could be made from the four remaining shippers.

In addition, the company stated, the line “is no longer operable, having been embargoed on Oct. 1, 2013, as a result of deteriorating track and bridge conditions, and is in need of substantial rehabilitation.

“NSR further stated that such rehabilitation costs cannot be recouped because the Line cannot be operated profitably.”

The SFB noted in its report that, according to the NSR, just to bring the line up to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Class I standards would required the company to invest nearly $5.9 million in timber, surface a little more than 32 miles of track and replace two of the 14 timber trestles.

The board noted that NSR is discontinuing service, but not abandoning the line, so there’s no need to look into offers for financial help.

“This decision will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment or the conservation of energy resources,” the SFB stated.