Charlotte will get its first direct intermodal rail connection to the port of Wilmington this fall, when CSX begins the Queen City Express. The service announced this week puts Wilmington in competition with Charleston and other ports that serve Charlotte.
Charlotte hasn't had direct freight rail service to Wilmington for 30 years. And there's no direct service from other nearby ports, either, said Paul Cozza, executive director of NC Ports Authority.
“So this is going to be quick delivery, it's going to speed transit, and it's going to be great for importers and exporters in Charlotte and around the Charlotte area,” Cozza said.
Intermodal shipping uses large containers that are delivered to port, then sent to their final destination by train or truck. Right now, service to Charlotte from Wilmington is truck-only.
Cozza says CSX's new service will take trucks off the road.
“Each train will keep about 280 trucks off the road, which is great. The less trucks on the road, the less emissions,” he said. “The other part is, (it's) just more efficient. We can get 'em in and out of our terminal in Wilmington very quickly.”
Trains will take about 12 hours to travel overnight between the coast and Charlotte. CSX will start the twice weekly service by October, as part of a major expansion in North Carolina.
Gov. Pat McCrory and CSX officials also announced plans this week for a $160 million container shipping hub in Rocky Mount that eventually also will connect to Wilmington by rail. That will give shippers access to both the port and to CSX's 23-state rail network.
The deals will boost competition, and could lower local shipping prices, CSX says.
Norfolk Southern offers five-day-a-week service between Charleston and its hub at Charlotte Douglas Airport. Those trains take two days, going through Spartanburg, South Carolina.