Train strike agreement avoids travel nightmares for train passengers

Labor unions and management at railroads including Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern reached a tentative deal early Thursday to avoid a strike that would have devastated much of the U.S. economy. In 30 years there would be a railroad strike. The deal still needs to be ratified by union members to completely end the risk of a strike.

Amtrak canceled all long-distance trains earlier this week. He said Thursday morning that he was working to quickly restore service and notify affected customers of available exits.

The strike would force the closure of many local and regional passenger services, which often rely on freight rails to operate trains or road infrastructure. Services that would be affected by the strike began warning customers on Thursday morning.

“We’re very relieved that we’ll be able to continue to provide the safe and reliable service you’ve come to expect and trust,” Metra, which operates commuter rail in the Chicago area, told customers Thursday. “Please accept our apologies for this uncertainty and anxiety.”

Metra expected Friday to close nine of its 11 lines, which carried an average of 36 million passengers annually from 2019 to 2021. It warned passengers earlier in the week that some trains would be suspended on Thursday night.

Jim Mathews, CEO of the Rail Passenger Association, which advocates for rail travelers, pushed the Biden administration to hammer out a deal. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh organized about 20 hours of talks and President Biden called to speak with negotiators on Wednesday evening.

Biden, sometimes called “Amtrak Joe” because he ran Amtrak almost daily from his home in Delaware to Washington when he was in the US Senate, has spoken of sparking a renaissance of rail in the US. The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year invested $66 billion in rail.

“A strike would have been a really significant blow to the larger policy goal of trying to start the renaissance of the railroad,” Mathews said. “This agreement is a demonstration of their commitment.”

Pete Muntean and Adrienne Broaddus contributed to this report.