Norfolk Southern is reporting increased earnings for its first quarter of 2016. This is good news for both shareholders and Altoona citizens.
“They have taken some productivity steps: more efficiency, created some innovation, innovative processes, and that’s probably contributed to the fact that their statements look a lot better than they have,” said Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation President and CEO, Martin Marasco.
One of those innovations is a new safety education train with classroom boxcars that teach first responders what to do in a hazmat situation.
“In the event of a rail emergency, we need their help,” said Norfolk Southern representative Dave Pidgeon. “We need the first responders.”
“Oh, it’s invaluable,” said Altoona Fire Department Captain James Reed. “I mean, you can’t beat hands-on training, and with the facility Norfolk Southern is supplying here, I mean, just with it being Norfolk Southern it’s top-notch.”
The railroad has seen some setbacks, especially when competing with the energy industry.
“The shut down of power plants, and you just don’t have the coal train, the unit trains, volumes that you had in the past,” Marasco said. “And also the impact of the oil prices.”
Even so, the railroad moves forward.
The new improvements come after Norfolk Southern reported its net income is up 25% over the last year. That’s $387 million in the first quarter.
“When you arrive to a scene of a rail emergency, it’s important that you know who to find so you can get the information that first responders need to effectively and safely respond,” Pidgeon said.
The company is also rolling out a new website to connect first responders who are learning about hazmat training.
“As long as Norfolk Southern does well financially, then there are opportunities that are probably going to create themselves to improve the economy of this area,” Marasco said, “not only from the standpoint of the workforce, but also from the standpoint of their facilities.”
Norfolk Southern is going to shut down a rail yard in Knoxville Tennessee, which could add to the increased earnings. Overall, though, operating revenues are down 6% from last year to $2.4 billion.