Norfolk Southern and Conrail are forging still another commercial bond by inaugurating intermodal service Nov. 1 between New England and the Southeast via Cincinnati.

The two railroads, which have been working together on capacity improvement and other intermodal ventures, said the new service represented the first intermodal service between those regions and taps into a market previously the sole province of motor carriers.Tom Finkbiner, Norfolk Southern's vice president of intermodal, said the train will carry wholesale traffic generated by intermodal marketing companies, international firms and motor carriers, with the capacity to handle double-stack containers as well as trailers.

"There is no intermodal service existing that serves this market," he said, "because until now there was no good route between Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus and the South."

The daily service with third-morning freight availability between New England and Atlanta covers the Boston area, upstate New York through Conrail's Syracuse terminal, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. It's aimed at tapping markets for consumer goods northbound and durable goods such as appliances southbound, Mr. Finkbiner said.

Conrail and NS also are partners in the Triple Crown Services joint venture that offers retail intermodal services in the Northeast and Southeast.

The new service is differentiated from Triple Crown by channel of sale, Triple Crown's use of RoadRailer equipment, and faster Triple Crown service on some portions of the new train's route, Mr. Finkbiner said.

Conrail and NS also have been cooperating in recent months on rerouting and track acquisition projects to increase capacity on rail lines in Ohio and Indiana.

CSX Intermodal has service between Atlanta, Jacksonville and the Northeast, but does not have terminals in upstate New York or northern Ohio.

John Sammon, Conrail's assistant vice president of intermodal, said the new train ties together existing intermodal routes on each railroad by adding rail service over Conrail between that railroad's Columbus terminal and the NS terminal in Cincinnati.

Conrail has a New England-St. Louis service via Columbus, while NS has several daily services between Chicago and the Southeast via Cincinnati.

Intermodal service will become competitive with over-the-road moves in some shorter-haul lanes along the route by eliminating long truck drayage moves that had to be made before between Columbus and Cincinnati to link up with previously available rail services there, carrier officials said.

The train will use trailers, containers and flatcars from NS' equipment inventory.