by Gary A. Harki
CLARKSBURG -- CSX Transportation is entertaining bids for lease of 1,200 miles of railroad track, including the Harrison County portion that is currently operated by the company.
That may mean job losses or transfers for at least 120 CSX employees who work in the region, said Gary Sease, spokesman for CSX.
The 530-mile line from Cumberland, Md., to Brooklyn Junction, just south of New Martinsville, is up for bid to smaller railroads. It is hoped the smaller companies may be able to make the stretch of track more profitable, Sease said.
"This is not a done deal," Sease said. "CSX is asking that bids be back to the company by July 20. We are not selling the track but giving it to others to operate."
The line that continues south of Grafton would also be a part of the lease, he said. The track will not be sold "piecemeal," Sease said.
Sease noted CSX would not necessarily accept the bids. A decision on the bids would come within a period of some weeks after July 20.
Most of the railroad customers are related to the coal industry, Sease said.
"These lines require more capital than we are willing to invest, and we hope short-line operators can make the economics of the line operate better than we currently can," Sease said.
CSX is still in the process of determining how many employees will be affected. There is a variety of options for the employees depending on their job and position, Sease said. Options include relocating with CSX and applying for employment with the company leasing the track.
CSX operates 23,000 miles of railroad track in 23 states, Sease said.
"We just don't know what is going to happen," said a CSX employee who asked not to be identified. "Some of these guys are about to retire in the next few months. We just don't know what this means for our jobs. We wish the company would give us a little more information about what is going on."