Norfolk Southern Corp. said its rail operations in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are returning to normal in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with the exception of the immediate New Orleans area.

“Lines are open, trains are moving, and we are ready to do our part in the overall recovery,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David R. Goode. “Communities, customers and recovery organizations can depend on rail transportation. Our thoughts are with them, and our resources are at their call.”

Norfolk Southern said freight that regularly travels through New Orleans for connection to other carriers is being rerouted through the railroad’s other gateways. Since the hurricane struck, Norfolk Southern crews have inspected some 1,400 miles of railroad and removed 3,680 trees on lines in the Gulf States.

Stephen C. Tobias, vice chairman and chief operating officer, credited NS people and systems with the quick and safe recovery. “Railroaders have had their share of experience in responding to hurricanes, from Camille to Andrew and from Fran to Hugo. When Katrina came, they were prepared, they knew what to do, and they did it safely,” he said.

Preparations included moving rolling equipment inland and staging people, ballast, rail and equipment just outside the hurricane’s path. Transportation planners used the railroad’s Thoroughbred Operating Plan to plot “what if” scenarios in advance of Katrina’s arrival, allowing for efficient rerouting of freight.

Tobias said repairs will get underway in the next several days on Norfolk Southern’s 5.8-mile long concrete ballast trestle across Lake Pontchartrain from Slidell, LA, to New Orleans, where several miles of rail were washed from the top of the bridge. Additionally, Norfolk Southern’s Oliver Yard in New Orleans was under water as of this morning. “Once we restore rail to the bridge and repair adjacent trackage, and once water recedes, we will be able to move needed materials and supplies into the area,” Tobias said. “We recognize the extreme need of our neighbors in New Orleans, and we will work as quickly and safely as possible to help in their recovery.”