CN eyes faster U.S. freight through track-sharing

Canadian National Railway (CN) has entered a new track-sharing plan with Virginia-based Norfolk Southern Corp. that could speed up its hauls through the U.S.

The two railways’ initiative, called the “MidAmerica Corridor,” will see them share track between Chicago, St. Louis, Kentucky, and Mississippi, giving them “shorter and faster” routes for merchandise and coal traffic between the U.S. Midwest and Southeast.

Under the deal as announced Tuesday, Norfolk Southern (NS) will haul CN freight between Chicago and St. Louis, cutting the distance between these points for CN shipments by about 100 km and giving CN “improved connections” to other rail carriers through St. Louis.

NS, meanwhile, will use CN’s routes between St. Louis and Fulton, Ky., giving the Norfolk, Va.-based carrier a “more efficient” route from the Midwest to the Southeast, saving NS shipments about 80 km.

CN, in return, will haul NS freight between Chicago and Fulton, thus shortening NS’s Chicago-Birmingham route by about 160 km.

The initiative also calls for the West Tennessee Railroad short line
between Fulton and Corinth, Miss., to be upgraded to handle heavier shipments
and more traffic. CN and NS said they will also create a new coal
gateway at Corinth, to connect NS-served southeastern utility
plants with coal producers in the CN-served Illinois Basin.

The two companies’ deal still requires “definitive
agreements” and approval for the exchange of trackage rights from the U.S.
Surface Transportation Board, which CN and NS expect in the next few months.

“This innovative track-sharing arrangement will expedite our customers’ shipments, improve asset utilization and generate new efficiencies for both CN and NS,” CN CEO Hunter Harrison said in a joint release.

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