Metra warns of service interruptions if freight railway strike happens

If America's freight railroad workers strike on Friday, thousands of commuters in Chicago will have to find another way to get to work.

Even though the possible rail strike involves America's freight railroad companies, passenger lines like Metra and Amtrak use tracks owned by freight companies like BNSF and Union Pacific.

"Could be catastrophic for us commuters," one downtown commuter told FOX 32 Chicago.

"I'm scared. Hopefully it won't happen," said another.


With a possible rail worker strike looming, Chicago Metra commuters are on edge about whether they will be able to keep riding the train to work after this week.

"I haven't seen a railroad strike like this in many, many years," said Joe Schwieterman, a transportation expert with DePaul University. "President Biden declared the 30-day cooling off period and that ends on Friday."

Schwieterman said while the freight railroad companies and the unions have mostly resolved salary issues, tens of thousands of workers still haven't seen an actual pay raise in almost two years.

"The sticking point now is just the militant attitude [the unions] claim the railroads have on time off, on missing work, on being penalized. They feel that's disrespectful, and they're pretty angry right now," he said.

Metra says if the strike happens, it will be forced to suspend service on four of its lines: the BNSF, and the Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West lines.

The following BNSF trains will not operate Thursday night, Sept. 15:

  • Inbound trains 1296, 1298, 1300 and 1302 are canceled (all depart Aurora after 8 p.m.)
  • Outbound trains 1289, 1291 1293 and 1295 are canceled (all depart Chicago after 9:30 p.m.)

The following Union Pacific trains will not operate Thursday night, Sept 15:

Union Pacific North

  • Inbound trains 372 and 374 are canceled (all depart Waukegan after 10 p.m.)
  • Outbound trains 371, 373, 375 and 377 are canceled (all depart Chicago after 9:30 p.m.)

Union Pacific Northwest

  • Inbound trains 666 and 668 are canceled (all depart after 9:30 p.m.)
  • Outbound trains 661,663,665 and 601 are canceled (all depart Chicago after 9:30 p.m.)

Union Pacific West

  • Inbound train 68 is canceled (departs Elburn after 9:15 p.m.)
  • Outbound trains 69 and 71 are canceled (all depart Chicago after 9:30 p.m.)

In a statement, Metra said, "negotiations between the freight railroads and unions are ongoing, and we are hopeful that a settlement will be reached before the strike deadline. However, we want you to be aware of this issue so that you can make alternate plans for travel should a work stoppage occur."

If you commute on the Metra Electric or Rock Island lines, no need to worry, because Metra owns those tracks; its other five lines are right now in limbo.

Amtrak has preemptively canceled some of its long-distance routes, to avoid the possibility of its trains being stranded in other parts of the country. The deadline for the unions to come to an agreement with the unions is this Friday.