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Norfolk Southern freight train speeds increased through Lehigh, Berks

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Norfolk Southern intermodal train in Pennsylvania. (Contributed).
Norfolk Southern intermodal train in Pennsylvania. (Contributed).

Norfolk Southern freight trains increased their speeds to 60 mph today along nearly 30 miles of railroad track from Lehigh to Berks counties.

The trains had been traveling at 50 mph.

About 30 to 40 freight trains carrying everything from consumer products to coal travel the segment, known as the Reading line, every day, said Jon Glass, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, which has the most extensive intermodal train network in the eastern United States.

Norfolk’s busiest lines carry around 100 trains a day and some of them connect to the Reading line, Glass said.

“The Reading line is an important line for us, especially for business there in Pennsylvania and the connections it makes,” he said.

The Reading line carries three types of freight, intermodal (shipping containers), general merchandise and coal.

The Lehigh Valley and Berks have become important warehouse distribution centers that rely on truck, rail and shipping ports to move goods that are produced or stored and delivered to and from warehouses.

Glass could not say if the increased train speeds on the Reading line would mean more trains would be traveling on the tracks.

“I can’t put a number to that, but anytime you can improve the fluidity, you actually add capacity to a line because the trains are moving over the line faster. You clear the line quicker, as opposed to a train that is just sitting there and things start to back up,” he said.

“We’re increasing the speed to increase efficiency of rail operations to better serve customers,” Glass said.

“Anything we can do to improve the fluidity and velocity on the lines is good for business.”

The Reading line extends from Laureldale to Allentown and handles east-west and north-south traffic. Some of the trains in Norfolk’s premier lines, which are its busiest lines, travel on the Reading segment.

The line is also a segment of the Crescent Corridor, which extends from New Orleans to northern New Jersey.

The Reading line includes 36 crossings at public highways. New digital track circuitry was installed to activate warning devices when the faster moving trains are approaching, Glass said.

Norfolk Southern operates about 19,500 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia and serves every major container port in the eastern U.S.

Norfolk Southern trains drop off containers at its intermodal facilities, including one in Harrisburg, where trucks pick up the containers and take them to their final destination. Containers are also off-loaded from trucks at the facilities and put on trains.

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