January 29, 2016

Railroad Merger: Federal Review Is Prudent Move | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Opposition to the possible merger between Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific, a move that could potentially impact hundreds of jobs in already hard-hit West Virginia, is growing. Talk of the possible merger also is creating additional concern in Bluefield where good jobs already are being lost by the crippling consolidation of Norfolk Southern’s Bluefield-based Pocahontas Division with its existing Virginia Division in Roanoke.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is calling for a Senate investigation into the proposed merger. Manchin was joined Wednesday joined U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W,Va., U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in sending a written letter of opposition to Canadian Pacific Railway’s plan to acquire Norfolk Southern to U.S. Surface Transportation Board Chairman David Elliot, Vice Chairman Ann Begeman, and board member Debra Miller. The letter written by the West Virginia delegation warns of a potentially devastating impact that the merger could have on West Virginia’s economy and urges the board to carefully review the details of the merger.

Manchin, who sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said last week that the possible merger could potentially costs hundreds of jobs in West Virginia while further harming the state’s economy and infrastructure. He is insisting that the details of the merger be thoroughly reviewed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation before any element of the transaction is allowed to proceed.

Another concern of Manchin is that 96 percent of West Virginia’s outbound bound railroad traffic is coal. He points to how the state and federal governments and Norfolk Southern came together to build an intermodal facility in Pritchard to help southern West Virginia communities take advantage of the fastest growing segment of the freight rail industry for the last 35 years — intermodal traffic, which uses various modes of transportation, rail, ship or truck, without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes.

While Canadian Pacific officials said Wednesday that they were “disappointed” in Manchin’s statements, we believe it is only prudent for the West Virginia delegation to carefully review and investigate this possible merger, and its impact upon West Virginia and the deep south counties in particular.

One thing is certain, Bluefield can not afford to sustain any further railroad-related losses. We believe it is imperative to protect and preserve those railroad jobs that will remain in Bluefield once the Pocahontas Division headquarters is shuttered and management and office staff are moved to Roanoke.

It is vital that our lawmakers do everything in their power to protect our existing railroad jobs. And that includes carefully reviewing and investigating the impact of a possible merger between the two railroad companies.