Norfolk Southern Corp., one of three major freight railroads serving Philadelphia, reported a decline in revenue and income for the first quarter, which it attributed to weakness in the automotive and housing industries.

For the quarter, net income was $285 million (or 71 cents per share diluted), down from $305 million (or 72 cents per share) during the same period last year. The operating ratio was 76.5 percent, compared with 76.1 percent last year.

"We are encouraged with our performance in the first quarter, especially in light of the softness in the economy," said Norfolk Southern chief executive officer Wick Moorman. He said the railroad continues to invest in added capacity and in technology to improve service.

General merchandise was down four percent while coal-hauling revenue was about even with 2006, Moorman said.

Despite winter weather conditions that were "far more severe" than the first quarter of 2006, he said, the railroad cut operating costs by two percent to $1.7 billion.

Virginia-based Norfolk Southern serves Philadelphia over the former Pennsylvania Railroad network, which it acquired in the 1999 breakup of Conrail Inc.

Contact staff writer Henry J. Holcomb at 215-854-2614 or hholcomb@phillynews.com.