NORFOLK SOUTHERN has awarded a contract to Wabtec Railway Electronics to develop a vital positive train control system, known by NS as Optimized Train Control. A pilot project covering 357 km of route in South Carolina is expected to go live in 2009.

NS has been working with Lockheed Martin on Phase I of the programme, to establish 'some foundational pieces' for OTC. This includes non-vital data on train location and turnout position, using the line between Charleston and Columbia (RG 5.07 p285). Phase II will see Wabtec develop the vital system, with electronic delivery and enforcement of movement authorities and speed restrictions through an on-board computer and in-cab display screen. This will use a further development of Wabtec's Electronic Train Management System, which is currently being installed by BNSF.

For Phase 2 the Charleston – Columbia pilot route has been expanded to include Columbia – Charlotte, allowing NS to test OTC on sections of route with ABS and CTC signalling as well as unsignalled territory.

On November 14 NS announced that work had started on the US$151m Heartland Corridor project to permit double-stack operation between Hampton Roads and Chicago through West Virginia and Ohio (RG 10.06 p644). Vertical clearances are to be improved through 28 tunnels by 2010, and work on the longest - the 1 km bore at Cowan, WV – began in October, according to Vice-President, Engineering, Tim Drake.