Thursday, February 23, 2012

NS nixes Charlotte commuter line plan

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Norfolk Southern says it cannot support a current plan for commuter rail service linking Charlotte and Mt. Mourne, N.C., calling the idea "fatally flawed."

In a letter to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. John Edwards, Norfolk Southern general director of passenger policy, wrote, "Norfolk Southern stands ready to study with NCDOT and CATS the introduction of commuter rail service on the Norfolk Southern O Line." The "O" Line stretches roughly 25 miles between Charlotte and Mooresville, N.C.

"Although I cannot now anticipate the eventual conclusions of such a study, Norfolk Southern commits to ensuring that any new study is based upon realistic operating, financial and regulatory assumptions. Having said that, Norfolk Southern cannot support the current 'Red Line' plan proposed by NCDOT for use of Norfolk Southern's property. The 'Red Line' plan is fatally flawed and based upon assumptions about the projected freight use of the 'O' Line that are no longer valid," Edwards wrote

"For those reasons," Edwards continued, "the current proposal is not feasible and does not constitute a starting point for further discussions. The development process, therefore, is premature and will not lead to an accelerated construction schedule."

NS had objected earlier to the state DOT, and to the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), for advancing the plan without consulting the Class I railroad more thoroughly over the status of the right-of-way, owned by the freight railroad.

Norfolk Southern has publicly supported or aided several passenger rail and rail transit projects recently, including the launch of The Tide light rail transit in its headquarters namesake city, Norfolk, Va. NS also has partnered with Virginia's Department of Transportation and Amtrak to restore Amtrak service to Norfolk by the end of this year, running predominantly over NS right-of-way south of the James River.