Natchez must be driving engine on rail

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If we’re not careful, the future of industrial development in Natchez and the surrounding areas may, literally, run out of town on a rail — two rails to be exact.

Approximately one year ago the lone railroad line serving Natchez was quietly sold along with other relatively small holdings of railroad giant Canadian National.

The purchaser was Natchez Railway LLC, affiliated with V&S Railway and A&K Railroad Materials based in Utah. V&S operates short-line railroads and A&K sells new and used track materials. The affiliation with the latter company means the owners have the resources to easily scrap the line if they chose to do so.

However, when the Natchez line was sold, the sale agreement included stipulations that the track could not be closed for two years and that Natchez Railway LLC would make reasonable efforts to sustain and increase the traffic on the line.

That means we’re nearly halfway through the restricted period during which they cannot close the line. The company hasn’t publicly said it has any intentions to close the line, but the lack of an abundance of customers using the line makes that reality a constant fear.

Several local leaders recently met with Natchez Railway representatives to discuss ways to grow their business.

The 66-mile stretch of track running from the banks of the Mississippi River at the Adams County Port to connecting railways in Brookhaven provides a vital lifeline for any hope of expanded industrial manufacturing here.

We urge our leaders to stay in contact with the railway’s owners working with them as community partners to ensure our area has rail service for many years to come.