Rail News from Central Virginia, by Paul Wilson
NS Dispatcher Walkout
At 11 a.m. on Sept. 3rd Norfolk Southern's train dispatchers on former Southern Railway lines walked off the job, in the wake of a contractual dispute in the Alabama Division's Birmingham dispatching office. According to a press release provided by the BLE, the action followed what the union believed to be a breach of contractual sick leave terms. Dispatching offices in Greenville, SC, Atlanta, Birmingham, Knoxville and Somerset, KY were affected by the job action taken by about one hundred dispatchers. On the former N&W lines, dispatchers are covered by different labor agreements and they remained on the job.
As result of the sudden walkout traffic was brought to a quick halt, as trains were stranded awaiting signals and track warrants. Management personnel scrambled to keep trains moving, often to no avail. In Virginia, Amtrak's #51 (Cardinal) had just left Washington when the strike hit. After a two-hour delay in Alexandria awaiting a CSX pilot crew, the train proceeded down the RF&P Sub to Doswell to turn west on the Piedmont Sub. The train arrived in Charlottesville 4 and half hours late after its lengthy "rare mileage" detour. VRE's evening commute was also disrupted, as NS requested that Manassas Line service be reduced from six trains to three. A court injunction brought the striking dispatchers back to work at 3 p.m., which allowed Amtrak #50 to travel its normal route north of Orange, Va. Other Amtrak trains took substantial delays, including #80 (Carolinian) which arrived in Richmond some 3 hours late. Freight service was also severely impacted. Hot pig train 213 came through Charlottesville about 3 p.m., having been stranded at Bristow for several hours waiting for authority to move. 266, the northbound Roadrailer, appeared at 7, a very late sighting. Three trains were immobilized on the B-Line, lacking the appropriate track warrants.
Charlottesville Station Renovation
The much-anticipated work on the renovation of Charlottesville Union Station has been on hold pending resolution of a contract between Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. Charlottesville's Daily Progress reported that Amtrak must first release Norfolk Southern of its obligation to provide station facilities. Once this issue has been settled, Norfolk Southern will convey the property to Union Station Partners. Union Station Partners will then proceed with construction, which is now scheduled to begin next month.