May 19--Norfolk Southern Corp. plans to cut 74 of the 495 employees at its DeButts Yard in Chattanooga as the railroad phases out the gravity-based "hump" system it has long used to build train alignments at the 62-year-old rail facility off Wilcox Boulevard.
The staff cuts, which the railroad will outline during employee meeting Monday at the Marriott hotel downtown, include 42 car repair employees, 23 conductors and engineers and nine engineering track workers, a company spokesman said today.
"We're idling our hump yard, but the operations at the yard are going to continue," Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon said. "We have a strategic plan we unveiled more than a year ago and part of that is to constantly evaluate our system and make sure we are best utilizing our assets and resources."
DeButts Yards in Chattanooga is one of 11 such maintenance and switching facilites. Norfolks Southern closed its hump yard in Knoxville a few years ago and changed to flat switching, according to L.H. Myhan, train conductor and the secretary treasurer in Tennessee for the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which is part of the Teamsters union.
"People are upset because the company is dong well and this could be a real hardship for some folks," Myhan said.
Pidgeon said Chattanooga "is and will remain a stratgically important part of our network," which helps connect routes both north and south and east and west.
"But we have studied traffic patterns and like any company that wants to not only survived but thrive in the 21st century, we have to adapt," he said. "We believe these changes will lead to efficient operations in the yard in response to changing traffic patterns."
Most of the Norfolk Southern staff at DeButts yard are employed in the locomotive shop, but those 318 jobs will not be affected the closing of the hump.
"Norfolk Southern intends to offer jobs to affected employees in other parts of our system as individuals' seniority with the company allows," Pidgeon said.
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