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US rail company Norfolk Southern (NS) is consolidating its Virginia and Pocahontas units to form the new Pocahontas Division as part of its aim to reduce costs and support long-term growth.

Effective from 1 February, the new Pocahontas Division will be headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia, and will be led by superintendent Charles Irvin.

The new Pocahontas Division will include 2,581 route miles, mainly in Virginia and West Virginia, extending from the Port of Virginia to Portsmouth, Ohio, and from Bristol to Hagerstown.

In Roanoke, the company currently operates a local switching yard, locomotive and rail car maintenance and overhaul facilities, and a material yard that supports track maintenance gangs systemwide.

According to Norfolk, the move will affect management and staff positions based in Bluefield, West Virginia, which is currently the Pocahontas Division headquarters.

"Consolidating the two divisions enables us to streamline operations and focus resources on high-return growth opportunities."

Those employees will have an opportunity to relocate to Roanoke or apply for other positions at the company.

With the consolidation, the company will operate ten divisions across its network.

The company said it is changing traffic patterns and idling parts of its West Virginia Secondary, a 253-mile railway line between Columbus, Ohio, and central West Virginia, due to steady declines in business in recent years.

Norfolk Southern operations senior vice-president Mike Wheeler said: "Creation of the new Pocahontas Division supports the railroad’s strategic plan to deliver cost-efficient and superior service while building a stronger enterprise.

"Consolidating the two divisions enables us to streamline operations and focus resources on high-return growth opportunities."

The company noted that combining the divisions will improve service by placing most of its coal routes under the operating authority of a single division.

In addition, the move consolidates operational control over the company’s Heartland Corridor, a double-stack intermodal route through Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.

Norfolk will continue to operate its rail yard in Bluefield, where most of the business of Appalachian coal is managed.

Image: Norfolk Southern building in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: courtesy of BetacommandBot via Wikipedia.