Freight rail transportation company Norfolk Southern Corp. has announced a five-year goal to reduce its carbon footprint through fuel-savings technology and improvements in operating efficiencies. Norfolk Southern plans to lower its greenhouse gas emissions per revenue ton-mile 10% by 2014, compared with 2009 emissions.
In 2009, Norfolk Southern transported 158.5 billion ton-miles of freight, producing 4.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, mostly from diesel-burning locomotives. Emissions per revenue ton-mile were 30.0 grams. Using 2009 as the baseline and at the same traffic level, a 10% reduction of emissions—to 27.0 grams per revenue ton-mile—would result in 475,000 fewer metric tons going into the atmosphere annually by 2014.
According to Blair Wimbush, Norfolk Southern's vice president real estate and corporate sustainability office, the company's emissions reduction strategy will focus on ways to achieve better fuel economy, including purchase of new, more fuel-efficient locomotives; continued deployment of idle-reduction and train handling technologies; and refined engine maintenance practices.
Further efforts will address direct and indirect emissions from energy used for heating, cooling, and lighting buildings and other facilities on the railroad. Nearing completion is a systemwide lighting upgrade that is reducing electricity consumption, and the company continues to adjust its nonrail vehicle fleet to save fuel and emissions.
In addition, Norfolk Southern expects significant efficiency gains from its major infrastructure improvement projects, such as the Heartland and Crescent corridors.
The Heartland Corridor is a three-year project to upgrade Norfolk Southern's rail route between the busy Virginia ports and the Midwest by modifying 28 tunnels and other facilities to accommodate double-stack containers. Set to open Sept. 9, the new gateway will cut about 250 route miles and a day or more of transit time from current train schedules.
The Crescent Corridor consists of a program of improvements to infrastructure and other facilities geared toward creating a high-capacity, 2,500-mile intermodal route spanning from Louisiana to New Jersey. The improvements will enable Norfolk Southern to handle more rail freight traffic faster and more reliably.
Both the Heartland and Crescent corridors are being developed through public-private partnerships between Norfolk Southern and government agencies to meet the rising demand for freight transportation services that keep America's economy competitive.