July 9, 2020 - TRA Newswire -

The Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX) has chosen a new operator for the rail line. A five-person selection committee voted to start negotiations with Freedom Terminal Services / Freedom Railcar Solutions of Mustang, Oklahoma to take over operations.

The 86 mile short line railroad that runs from Greenvile to Winfield in Northeast Texas had been under contract with Blacklands Rail. Blacklands had promised the NETEX board a $42 million package to upgrade the railroad but was unable to do so earlier this year, according to NETEX president Brian Lee, who also serves at Titus County Judge.

Freedom has proposed a $12 to $15 million investment to rehabilitate the rail line to bring it up to Federal Railroad Administration standards. Mike Salek, representing Freedom, said that his company should be operational soon and plans to headquarter in Sulphur Springs. “We want to help bring companies here. We’re about accountability to the operation and making sure customers needs are met", according to Salek.

Hanging in the balance is a decision on the former Luminant mining property, which stretches from Pittsburg to Winfield, containing 32 miles of track. The reclaimed former mine property could be valued at up to $50 million. Freedom confirmed that they are one of the bidders on the property, which could be utilized for railcar storage.

According to the NETEX website the district, formed in 1995, is a Rural Rail District controlling 65.6 miles of operational railroad and a total railroad corridor of 88.8 miles in Northeast Texas between the Titus-Franklin County line and Wylie, outside of Dallas.  This line was originally the "C-branch" mainline of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway. It serves Titus, Franklin, Hopkins, Delta, Hunt and Collin Counties. Netex ownership ends at Winfield but they operate to a point a mile or so from Mt. Pleasant to set out for Union Pacific pickup/delivery.

Freedom Rail plans to bring line up to Class II standards over a 5 year period.  They aim to get line up to Class I track in two years. While they are a Union Pacific haulage carrier, they do have independent interchange with Kansas City Southern at two points and with the Dallas Garland Northeastern at Greenville.