US-based rail company Norfolk Southern has begun operating trains across the new Portageville Bridge on its Southern Tier Line following a two-year construction period.

The new $75m rail bridge is built over the 235ft-deep river gorge in Letchworth State Park and was funded through a public-private partnership comprising Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

"The successful completion of this bridge is an excellent demonstration of how the public and private sectors can work together on freight transportation projects that generate significant public benefits."

The bridge features a 963ft-long steel arch railroad span and is expected to improve train traffic, while allowing the company to run heavier railcar loads over the line.

Norfolk Southern will now be able to transport railcars loaded to the industry standard 286,000lb over the Southern Tier Line.

Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO James Squires said: “The successful completion of this bridge is an excellent demonstration of how the public and private sectors can work together on freight transportation projects that generate significant public benefits and are vital to US commerce.

“It’s also a testament to Norfolk Southern’s robust bridge programme and the ingenuity of engineers and railroaders.”

The Portageville Bridge is anticipated to expand freight movement and business opportunities for shippers from the Midwest to New England.

All trains will be able to cross the bridge at a speed of up to 30mph, which was previously restricted to 10mph on the old bridge.

Norfolk Southern contributed $59.5m for the design and construction of the bridge project, while a further $15.5m was provided by the New York State Government.