Amtrak cancellations affecting several Chicago routes as strike looms; Metra could be affected

Amtrak train schedule changed as over 100K railroad workers threaten strike

Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Amtrak Chicago routes affected ahead of possible railroad strike
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The Amtrak schedule through Chicago has been changed after thousands of railroad workers threatened to go on strike.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The threat of a major rail strike is affecting travel plans for a lot of people in Chicago Tuesday morning, and it could affect Metra service, as well.

Amtrak has preemptively canceled trips on multiple routes that go through the city.

More than 100,000 railroad workers are threatening to go on strike, and that could drastically affect commuters and the economy.

On Tuesday morning, talks are taking place in Washington, even including the president, to avoid a rail strike, as unions representing engineers and conductors negotiate with the nation's biggest freight railroads.

SEE MORE: Crippling nationwide railroad strike could happen as soon as Friday

Passenger service and supply chains could come to a halt, costing the economy an estimated $2 billion per day.

"Obviously, a railroad strike at this point in time would be extraordinarily detrimental to our economy and the American people, and we want to avoid that," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, Democrat majority leader.

Amtrak is preemptively canceling trips on multiple routes that go through Chicago, including Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, City of New Orleans, Lake Shore Limited, Texas Eagle and the Zephyr, even though the strike won't affect its workforce.

Among the routes being suspended are long-distance routes from Chicago to Los Angeles, Chicago to Seattle, Chicago to San Francisco and a portion of one of its routes that runs from Los Angeles to San Antonio.

Amtrak announced Tuesday afternoon several additional long-distance routes that are being pre-emptively canceled, including Chicago to New Orleans, Boston/New York (two branches) to Chicago, and San Antonio to Chicago.

Affected passengers will be eligible for a refund.

"We won't be able to visit my kids if it stops, and everybody out of work, sorry about that, but I'll miss my family," said Andrea Sawicki, an Amtrak commuter.

Metra service could also be affected, as nine of the commuter rail's lines, all except the Metra Electric and Rock Island, interact with freight railroads in some way.

"This is my main commute right here! I do this two times a day, and this is how I get back and forth. Yes, I'm very concerned about it, and I want to make sure the Metra is still going," said Dennis Harriss, a Metra commuter who lives in Geneva.

Four of the lines, the BNSF and Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West, are owned by and directly operated by freight railroads. If the work stoppage occurs, there will likely not be service on those lines.

"I was like, 'oh my God, how am I going to get to work next week,' and then, 'OK, do I talk to my HR people and say there is no way I'm going to be able to come down,'" Metra commuter Kristine Gord said.

Other passengers are waiting to see what happens, and hope for a resolution that works for all.

"I support the strikers, I support the workers, even if it's inconvenient to me; I take Amtrak about two to three times a month to Macomb, Illinois, to Chicago and back," Amtrak commuter Holly Stovall said.

Groceries, gifts and other consumer goods could also be delayed.

Two unions have been demanding that CSX, Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern and the other railroads go beyond the proposed deal recommended by a group of arbitrators President Joe Biden appointed. They want them to address concerns about strict attendance policies that they say make it hard to take any time off and increasing workloads after the railroads cut nearly one-third of their workforces in recent years.

The deadline for a contract deal is 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.