Amtrak announced Monday that it is preemptively suspending service on some of its long-haul routes, primarily from Chicago, due to an impending freight rail strike.
“Amtrak is closely following the ongoing negotiations on rail freight employment contracts. No Amtrak or Amtrak personnel are involved in the negotiations. While we hope the parties will come to a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible disruption of freight train service later this week,” Amtrak said in a statement.
Among the routes that will be suspended are long-haul routes from Chicago to Los Angeles, Chicago to Seattle, Chicago to San Francisco, and part of one of the routes that runs from Los Angeles to San Antonio.
Amtrak calls these “initial adjustments” and says it “could be followed by impacts on all long-haul routes and most state-sponsored routes.”
The labor dispute that could lead to the first national rail strike in 30 years could start as early as this Friday. About 60,000 union workers who work for the railway are going on strike, including the engineers and conductors who make up the two-man crew on each train. Although 45,000 other union members are members of unions that have made provisional agreements with the railways, a strike by engineers and conductors would bring the freight rail system, which carries nearly 30% of the country’s freight, to a standstill.
Amtrak says a strike would have a “significant impact” on 21,000 route miles it operates outside the Northeast. In the northeast, where Amtrak owns the tracks, the impact would be minimal. For example, Acela’s fast service wouldn’t be affected, but it says a “small number” of its Northeast Regional sailings would be.
Amtrak owns and maintains approximately 700 miles of track, primarily in the northeast corridor from Boston to Washington. But virtually all of the remaining 97% of Amtrak’s nearly 22,000-mile system is on tracks owned and maintained by freight railroads, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Vanessa Yurkevich of CNN contributed.