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Norfolk Southern streamlining to enhance long-term growth

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World Coal,

Norfolk Southern Corp. is joining its Virginia and Pocahontas divisions to form the new Pocahontas Division, with headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia, as of 1 February.

This is part of the company's ongoing aim to increase operating efficiencies and aid long-term growth.

The new Pocahontas Division will comprise 2581 route miles, mainly in Virginia and West Virginia, extending from the Port of Virginia to Portsmouth, Ohio and from Bristol, Virginia, to Hagerstown, Md.

"Creation of the new Pocahontas Division supports the railroad's strategic plan to deliver cost-efficient and superior service while building a stronger enterprise," commented Mike Wheeler, Senior Vice President of Operations. "Consolidating the two divisions enables us to streamline operations and focus resources on high-return growth opportunities."

According to the company, combining the divisions will improve service by placing most of the company's coal routes under the operating authority of a single division. Additionally, it is reported that the move further consolidates operational control over the company's Heartland Corridor, a double-stack intermodal route through Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.

Superintendent Charles M. (Mike) Irvin, a 33-year employee with wide experience managing several different divisions for the railroad, will lead the new division. In Roanoke, Norfolk Southern currently operates a local switching yard, locomotive and railcar maintenance and overhaul facilities and a material yard that supports track maintenance gangs systemwide.

This merge will affect management and office staff positions now based in Bluefield, West Virginia, currently the Pocahontas Division headquarters. Those employees will have an opportunity to relocate to Roanoke or apply for other positions at the company.

The company will continue to operate its rail yard in Bluefield. Trains moving Appalachian coal comprise most of the business handled there, and yard traffic has declined as coal volumes moved by the railroad have dropped over the past five years. Currently, approximately 130 people work in operations departments at the yard, including in transportation, engineering and mechanical.

"Coal mined from the Appalachian Basin has long served as a vital, low-cost source of energy to power America, and Norfolk Southern remains committed to providing top-notch service to our valuable coal customers," Wheeler explained. "At the same time, the railroad is nimble and adapts to changing market conditions. Our strategic plan positions us to meet the needs of current customers, while creating efficiencies and focusing resources on infrastructure and markets that support continued growth."

For example, Wheeler noted that the Heartland Corridor, opened in 2010 as part of a public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and the federal government, created the shortest, most efficient and environmentally friendly route to transport intermodal freight between the Port of Virginia and Midwest consumer markets. This year, Norfolk Southern trains will begin serving the new Heartland Intermodal Gateway in Prichard, West Virginia, the state's first intermodal facility, which was developed through the corridor partnership.

"The Heartland Corridor opens global trade markets for West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio businesses, creates opportunities for jobs and economic expansion, and supports the railroad's efforts to shift freight from highway to rail," Wheeler detailed. "The Heartland Corridor is a vital part of the US transportation network. As we help communities and businesses compete in the global marketplace, we are building a stronger future for Norfolk Southern and our shareholders."This announcement follows other recent strategic initiatives, including the reduction from three corporate office locations to two, restructuring of the Triple Crown Services subsidiary and integration of the D&H South Line to increase options for shippers.

Additionally in a connected move, Norfolk Southern is changing traffic patterns and idling parts of its West Virginia Secondary, a 253 mile line between Columbus, Ohio, and central West Virginia that has experienced steady declines in business in recent years. This comes after the idling of a 33 mile mainline between Elmore and Princeton, West Virginia, in September 2015.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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