Metra could halt service on 4 busy Chicago-area commuter lines if freight rail workers strike on Friday

Metra could halt service on 4 busy Chicago-area commuter lines if freight rail workers strike on Friday

Metra, one of Chicago’s biggest movers from the suburbs to the city, said Tuesday it would have to suspend train service on several Chicago-area lines if a strike by freight railroad workers takes place later this week, a decision that would affect thousands of people. daily train passengers.

According to a report from NBC News, freight workers are threatening to strike as early as Friday for reasons including higher wages, more generous paid vacations and a renegotiation of strict attendance policies that make it difficult to take time off.

“Our unions remain at the bargaining table and have handed the rail carriers a proposal that we would be prepared to take to our members for ratification, but it is the rail carriers who refuse to reach an acceptable agreement,” said the SMART Transportation. . Division said Monday. “In fact, it is clear from our negotiations over the past few days that the railways show no intention of reaching an agreement with our unions.

“The railroads are using our country’s shippers, consumers and supply chain as pawns in an effort to trick our unions into giving in to their contractual demands, knowing our members would never accept them,” the board continued. communicated.

Although Metra is not part of the labor dispute, the rail operator said in a statement to NBC 5 on Tuesday that a strike by railway workers “could have a direct impact on Metra’s ability to operate on certain lines”, since the majority of Metra’s lines run on tracks that are either owned, maintained or shipped by, or intersect with freight railroads.

“Four of our lines, BNSF and Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West, are directly owned and operated by freight railroads. If the work stoppage occurs, we anticipate it will not there will be no service on these lines.

Metra’s BNSF line takes passengers from the western suburbs of Chicago in DuPage County to and from the city. The train’s Union Pacific North line serves passengers up and down the North Rim, while the other two lines shuttle commuters from as far north as McHenry County and as far east west than Kane County.

Metra, which just extended its $100 monthly Super Saver pass, says two of its lines would still operate as planned — the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines — since Metra owns, operates and controls those lines.

However, “on other lines,” Metra says, “we are in communication with the affected freight railways to understand how we may be impacted and to determine our options.”

Amtrak already decided on Monday to preemptively cancel three long-distance train routes from Chicago, a move the train operator said would “avoid potential passenger disruption” due to the impending strike.

Although Amtrak is also not part of the dispute, the rail operator said in a statement that a strike by railway workers “could significant impact” on its passenger service since it operates nearly all of its 21,000 miles of route on tracks owned, maintained and shipped by freight railways.

According to Amtrak, the affected routes are part of the Texas Eagle, as well as three long-distance routes from Chicago: California Zephyr, Empire Builder and Southwest Chief.

“These initial adjustments could be followed by impacts on all long-haul routes and most state-supported routes,” the Amtrak statement continued.

But train passengers may not be the only ones affected by a strike.

Due to the volume of products transported and moved by rail, supply chains for various items could be affected. According to the director of the United States Chamber of Commerce, a strike by railway workers could further affect economic and supply chain problems by affecting the flow of goods and increasing already inflated prices.

“A shutdown of the country’s rail service would have enormous national consequences,” the House said on Monday, Reuters reports.

A White House official told The Associated Press that President Joe Biden and members of his cabinet are in contact with both sides in hopes of preventing a strike, and that a number of trade groups representing rail shippers are urging lawmakers to prepare to block a strike. .

Last week, a coalition of 31 farm groups sent a letter to Congress, and the Fertilizer Institute trade group joined the chorus of shippers worried Saturday because shipments of ammonia and other fertilizers will be delayed.

“Supply chains are already strained and there is currently no elasticity in rail transportation,” said FIT Group President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch. “This situation will get exponentially worse every day without a solution.” According to Rosenbusch, more than half of all fertilizers are transported by rail.

Additionally, more than 75% of all finished vehicles are transported from factories to dealerships by rail, and countless other products are transported by rail.

The Association of American Railroads estimates that closing the railroads would cost the economy $2 billion a day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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