Agreement could lead to restored rail service in Columbus County
Carolina Southern Railroad agreed to abandon nearly 69 miles of track stretching from Columbus County to South Carolina. (Source: WECT)
WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) -
An agreement reached this week could get rail cars moving again in Columbus County.
Carolina Southern Railroad stopped service nearly three years ago after the Federal Railroad Administration found structural problems with some of the company's bridges.
The railroad agreed Monday to abandon nearly 69 miles of track stretching from Whiteville to Nichols, SC and from Chadbourn to Conway, SC. The move will allow a buyer to take-over the lines and restore service.
A group of companies and governments - including Columbus County; Horry County, SC; and Marion County, SC - filed a complaint with the Federal Surface Transportation Board in August 2013 alleging the railroad broke the law by not repairing its bridges or abandoning the lines. The company denied wrongdoing.
"Without the adversarial presence of the Complaint hanging over us, I believe that we will reach an agreement beneficial to both parties," Ken Pippin, owner of Carolina Southern, said in a statement issued Wednesday. "After the sale, a fresh infusion of capital to the railroad will enable it to be a strong partner in the economic growth of two great states and the creation of new jobs."
Officials involved in the negotiations expect a sale could be negotiated as early as mid September, according to a press release.
Gary Lanier, Columbus County economic development director, explained the rail stoppage has increased freight costs for area manufacturers, including Idaho Timber in Chadbourn and Atlantic Packaging in Tabor City.
Kroy, a company that produces fencing, trucks one of its raw materials - poly vinyl chloride – from Fayetteville to its plant in Fair Bluff.
Lannie McKoy, vice president of manufacturing, said rail service at the Columbus County plant would allow him to potentially ramp-up production and hire more workers.