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NS, 10 New York state short lines partner to form 'Empire Link'

Make it two small railroad joint ventures for Norfolk Southern Corp. this month. Yesterday, the Class I announced it's teaming up with 10 New York short lines to launch the "Empire Link."

Aimed at diverting short-haul truck movements to rail in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Empire Link will allow participating small railroads to market excess capacity on NS lines as single-line moves. The Class I has under-utilized capacity on its Southern Tier mainline between Binghamton and Silver Springs, N.Y., and branch lines between Corning and Geneva, and Waverly and Ludlowville, N.Y., NS said.

"The Empire Link provides our New York short line partners with the tools and resources to design and offer rail transportation services that are truck-competitive in lanes that are less than 500 miles," said NS Vice President of Industrial Products David Lawson in a prepared statement.

The participating short lines include the Bath and Hammondsport Railroad; Central New York Railroad Corp.; Finger Lakes Railway; Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad; New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway Corp.; Ontario Central Railroad; Owego & Harford Railway; Rochester and Southern Railroad; Wellsboro and Corning Railroad; and Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad.

Any short line can market a move — originating or terminating on their line — that involves one or more other short lines and NS as the bridge carrier. NS initially would provide all the equipment (the short lines would have the option to use their own) and rates would involve a series of per-car charges based on the commodity, such as salt or paper.

NS worked with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) to develop the Empire Link, which is expected to launch on or about July 1.

"We expect positive results for shippers, communities, and big and small railroads alike," said ASLRRA President Richard Timmons. "If the Empire Link performs as we anticipate, it could serve as a model for future Class I and short-line business arrangements."

Earlier this month, NS teamed up with regional Pan Am Railways to establish the "Patriot Corridor" between Albany, N.Y., and Boston, and form 50-50 joint venture railroad Pan Am Southern.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/30/2008