Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rail Freight Programme Sees First Container Shipment

Mammoth Scheme is Open for Business
Shipping News Feature

US – It’s true; they do things bigger in the States. In the olden, golden days of pioneering it was the railroads that opened up the country enabling the shipping of vital supplies to all parts of the territory, no matter how remote. This week saw the first freight containers carried on a tortuous, winding route through the Appalachian Mountains to Columbus, Ohio on a track that previously could only cope with the old, low height, coal carrying gondolas.

In an ambitious project costing almost $200 million (train operator Norfolk Southern put up half the money, matched by the federal government with a little help from the state authorities in Ohio and Virginia) they scooped out twenty eight tunnels, shifting power cables and strengthening bridges to accommodate rail cars loaded with double stacked shipping containers, cutting a day off the transit time and saving the nations roads from around 150 truckloads, half a double stacked freight train load.

The entire project, known as the ‘Heartland Corridor’ is part of a battle to upgrade and improve services and increase competition with road haulage services and to prepare for the $5.25 billion worth of improvements to upscale the Panama Canal which will be completed in 2014-15. The canal operators are enlarging capacity in an attempt to increase traffic before the viability of the North East passage becomes a reality for many of the freight carriers.

Norfolk Southern intend to seize their share of the extra containers carried in via Panama, as do intermodal rivals CSX in Florida who have a similar tunnel excavation scheme in progress to increase their own efficiency.

Photo: Scouring out a rail tunnel deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

HERE is an excellent NSC Video of the Heartland Corridor development.