The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Railroads & Regional Economic Development Conference, cosponsored by the Western North Carolina Rail Committee and the Rail Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The conclusion was that, despite decades-long lobbying for passenger rail, nothing was going to happen soon. Ray Rapp, a former state representative who chairs the WNC Rail Committee, said it remains more practical for travelers who prefer to ride trains to connect to Greenville, South Carolina and take a bus to Asheville. More pragmatic would be expanding freight service, and Rapp’s committee is currently in negotiations with the Norfolk Southern Railway and Blue Ridge Southern Railroad. State Senator Jim Davis, who chairs several transportation committees, added passenger rail in the western part of the state was a very low priority. It would have to be funded from the private sector, and current demand is insufficient to sustain it without subsidy. Freight rail service, in general, declined with the exodus of manufacturing in the nation. CSX’s Director of Industrial Development Jim Van Derzee estimated only one in ten economic development projects would use rail. The only Asheville-area business using the north-south Norfolk Southern line is Silver-Line Plastics.