By Sarah Plummer
April 17, 2017 - Norfolk Southern Railway will continue to use both thermal and metallurgical coal, Chief Marketing Officer Alan Shaw announced last week at the National Coal Transportation Association Conference.
S&P Global Platts, an energy price assessment and reporting agency, reports that Norfolk Southern made cuts to its use of coal from Central Appalachia over the past few years but the company is reinvesting as the markets improve.
"Clearly, when opportunities are there, we'll invest," Shaw said. The railroad will "make sure we're there when the volumes come on."
The railroad shut down a 33-mile stretch of track in West Virginia from Elmore to Princeton and idled parts of the West Virginia Secondary (a 253-mile line between Columbus and the Mountain State).
According to S&P, an uptick in the U.S. coal industry over the past year has led to revenue for the railroad.
Norfolk Southern coal volumes increased 21.9 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same timeframe in 2016. That's 245,771 carloads up from 201,671.
The largest spike in volume was seen in Lamberts Point loading area in Norfolk, Va., where Norfolk Southern is headquartered.
There, the amount of coal loaded onto trains was up 47.1 percent from first quarter a year ago.
Shaw said that with market improvements, all 21,000 units in the railroad's fleet are on the tracks.
"We're not really sure (of coal's future), but we know it still will be a valuable commodity in the United States, and we know we still will be a part of that," Shaw said at the conference.