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Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

NS announces service changes in response to PTC deadline

Norfolk Southern Corp.'s rail subsidiaries will no longer accept shipments of poisonous-inhalation-hazard (PIH) commodities starting Dec. 1, in preparation for the federal positive train control (PTC) safety law that will take effect Jan. 1, 2016, the company announced yesterday.

PIH commodities that are in transit on Dec. 1 will be delivered to their destinations by Dec. 31, NS officials said in a press release.

The cessation of service, effective across the entire NS rail network, is required to comply with the federal government's Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to install PTC technology. NS, which has invested nearly $1 billion on PTC, and most freight and commuter railroads have informed the government that they will not be able to complete PTC implementation by the deadline, and have asked Congress to grant an extension.

The Federal Railroad Administration has said that it must enforce the deadline that Congress sets. If there is no extension, many railroads have said they will have to cease at least some service as of Jan. 1 so that they are not operating in violation of federal law.

NS officials said the status of the Class I’s non-PIH traffic interchanged with other railroads and freight operations on the Northeast Corridor after Dec. 31 is currently under review.

"We remain hopeful that Congress will grant the railroad industry an extension of the PTC deadline and appreciate the consideration elected officials and regulators are giving this issue," said NS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires. "However, in order to conduct lawful operations on Jan. 1, 2016, and beyond, we must plan ahead to clear affected loaded and empty freight cars from our system."

Squires noted that NS is installing PTC on its required lines and equipment as fast as is safe and practical.

"PTC is one of the most complex technology implementations in our history," he said. "It is in everyone's interest — railroads, customers, suppliers, and communities — that adequate time is devoted to installation, testing, and implementation. Norfolk Southern is committed to getting this right."

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