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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rail report pleases locals

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The sale of a Canadian National Railroad line to shortline operator Grenada Railway, LLC, has had local businesses and officials concerned about the future of the rail in Tate County, Miss., The Democrat reports But after a report by Larry Hart, current Water Valley mayor and a former railroad employee, things might be better than they first seemed.


The report, presented to the boards of aldermen of both municipalities and the Tate County Board of Supervisors recently by Tate County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Janie Mortimer, detailed the changes that have come to the line in recent months. Mortimer said that Hart had retained ties to the railroad industry, and had been working closely with them during this transition. She was hopeful that the new owners would continue their improvements to the line.


Canadian National sold its Grenada Line to Grenada Railway, LLC, earlier this year. The shortline operator now runs the railway from Memphis to Canton. A spur of that line, known as the Water Valley Spur, runs to Mayor Hart's town.


Another line, known as the Natchez Line, was sold to Natchez Railway, LLC. Both companies are subsidiaries of V&S Railway, a shortline rail operator, and A&K Railroad Materials, a railroad salvage company.


According to Hart's report, Grenada Railway has leased out two of CN's engines, and purchased two more. The engines do not run along the line every day, he reported, but approximately every other day. The company is running the line in two segments, Grenada-to-Memphis and Grenada-to-Canton.


Many concerned parties were relieved to hear that not only are the trains running, but also that Grenada Railway had increased business on the line with new spurs in Sardis and Horn Lake. Grenada Railway and Natchez Railway had agreed as part of the sale terms to operate the lines for at least two years, and try to increase business.


Hart also reported that Grenada Railway, which had contracted out most of its maintenance work, was in the process of checking on their equipment and infrastructure. Private contractors will also eventually be handling the dispatching operations for the line, which are still being done by CN for the present.


The company has also hired a general manager, Hart said, who will be moving to the area soon and have an office in Grenada.


As far as customer service, Hart said, "Customers should be more comfortable in the area of service, since they are dealing with a smaller railroad and a more hands-on management."


Hart reported that there were two "problematic" bridges on the Grenada line, but that the company was seeking out sources of funding to help correct the problems. The repairs, according to Hart's report, are expected to be in the $2 million range.


"After having had much involvement with the upper management of the parent company of Grenada Railway," Hart said in his report, "I am thoroughly convinced that it is their intention to make Grenada Railway a successful company."

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