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By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
Since more intermodal capacity is needed to help ease supply-chain congestion that has slowed U.S. container flows, BNSF Railway Co. and Norfolk Southern Railway have reopened key intermodal terminals.
On Sept. 10, NS began a gradual reopening of its Franklin County Regional Intermodal Facility in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, starting with a lane of domestic traffic that runs between the Class I’s intermodal facilities in Memphis, Tennessee, and Rutherford, Pennsylvania.
The Greencastle terminal will provide additional terminal capacity, improve network fluidity across Pennsylvania and help improve service as intermodal demand continues to grow, NS officials said in a press release. A combination of factors — including strong market demand and pandemic-driven supply chain changes — figured into the reopening decision, they said.
“With strong growth in volume driven by e-commerce and a recovering economy, we believe the timing is right to bring our Greencastle facility back online,” said NS Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw. “We are collaborating with our customers to support their business needs, offering shippers a more sustainable transportation solution and a commitment to best-in-class service.”
NS opened the Greencastle facility in January 2013 as part of its Crescent Corridor initiative, a public-private partnership aimed at converting freight from highway to rail along a 2,500-mile stretch. Under the initiative, the railroad also constructed intermodal terminals in Birmingham, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Memphis.
The railroad idled the Greencastle terminal in 2019 due to “business reasons,” but left open the possibility of resuming operations if market conditions changed, NS officials said. The facility can accommodate 100,000 container lifts annually, and the first reopening phase of traffic is expected to generate about 50,000 lifts per year.
Meanwhile, BNSF last month reopened its Harvard Intermodal Facility in Marion, Arkansas. The 20-acre terminal features more than 6,500 feet of track, 500 wheeled parking and 300 stacking spots, and two side loaders.
Some international intermodal shipments originating at the Port of Long Beach now terminate at the facility, which is located 27 miles from BNSF’s Memphis intermodal hub.
The move unlocks capacity to help meet increased intermodal demand in the region, BNSF officials said in a press release.
“We recognize that strong demand remains in front of us, and we are doing everything we can to make sure we can handle the volume and continue to drive more throughput on our network,” said BNSF spokesman Benjamin Wilemon in an email. “Reopening our Harvard Facility will enhance intermodal fluidity for the greater Memphis region and is one of many efforts that we are employing around our network to address the challenges affecting global supply chain congestion.”
Located adjacent to BNSF’s sprawling rail hub in the city, the 180-acre Memphis facility features 44,700 feet of production tracks, five wide-span electric cranes and automated gate technology.
BNSF is considered the largest intermodal rail carrier, handling more than 1 million additional loads per year than its competitors. The Class I aims to ensure it offers enough capacity — even at peak times — by working with carriers who own their own equipment.
The railroad is reopening the Marion facility in a tactful and strategic manner to ensure the railroad’s operations remain fluid, said Wilemon.
Additional origination locations and train starts currently are under evaluation for the Arkansas facility.