CSX Transportation Inc. is suing Norfolk Southern Railway and the Chesapeake-based Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad, alleging that they have conspired to create a monopoly at Norfolk International Terminals by essentially boxing out CSX at the Port of Virginia's largest container facility.
The case, filed in Norfolk federal court, also names as defendants three Norfolk Southern vice presidents and the president of the Belt Line. It weaves threads that include railroad history going back more than a century, port rail logistics and the competitive position of the Port of Virginia.
Both Norfolk Southern and the Belt Line declined to comment on the case.
The Belt Line is a local "short line" railroad that operates over 26 miles in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake. It specializes in breaking down big freight trains and delivering, among other things, intermodal containers – the cargo-carrying boxes seen all over the region – to facilities around the port.
"NS and the NPBL have used the NPBL as a chess piece to establish and maintain NS's monopolistic control over intermodal transportation in and out of NIT (Norfolk International Terminals) by making it practically impossible for any other rail carriers to provide intermodal service to NIT," the suit alleges.
More cargo arrives and departs the port by rail – 37 percent – than at any other U.S. East Coast port. The suit states that while Norfolk Southern's market share in Hampton Roads exceeds 70 percent, it is about 90 percent at NIT.
The Belt Line was formed in 1896, when eight railroads with operations in Hampton Roads agreed to build and operate a belt-line railroad connecting various tracks "that would enable the interchange of cars among the railroads and connection to the port, among other facilities," according to the suit.
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