The first train in more than 20 years operated on the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Piedmont & Northern Railroad corridor February 20, from Gastonia to Mount Holly, N.C. The train was operated by Patriot Rail, a freight shortline and regional railroad company based in Boca Raton, Fla., under a lease that has been signed with that company.
After a joint inspection of the track by NCDOT and Patriot Rail earlier in the day, the rail corridor was officially turned over to Patriot Rail for future inspection, maintenance, marketing and operation of trains to provide rail service to customers. Under terms of the lease, Patriot Rail also will provide property rental, revenue sharing and return-on-upgrade-investment payments to NCDOT.
Train traffic on the P&N corridor is expected to aid in a more efficient transportation of goods and services to and from the area, as well as expand job creation. One customer has been secured and several others are in discussions with Patriot Rail to locate on the line.
Operation of the first train follows a number of track upgrades, new track construction, bridge repairs and crossing safety improvements that were pursued with federal, state and local funding.
A lease was signed with Patriot Rail to operate the rail line after a competitive bidding and selection process. They will operate the rail line as the Piedmont & Northern Railway (PNRW).