Amtrak has canceled all of its long-distance trains as a labor dispute between the nation’s freight railroads and two unions representing many of their employees comes to a head.
The state-sponsored Carolinian and Piedmont trains are still running for now, but Amtrak says they could be affected soon as well.
That’s because outside of the Northeast, most Amtrak trains operate on tracks that are owned or controlled by freight railroads. If maintenance workers and dispatchers who work for those companies go on strike Friday, Amtrak would have to suspend its service.
Amtrak began canceling long-distance trains on Tuesday, starting west of Chicago, including the Southwest Chief, the Empire Builder, the California Zephyr and part of the Texas Eagle between Los Angeles and San Antonio. The railroad said it made the move to “avoid possible passenger disruptions while en route.”
On Wednesday morning, it announced seven more cancellations, including the Silver Star, which runs between New York and Miami and stops in Rocky Mount, Raleigh, Cary, Southern Pines and Hamlet.
By the afternoon, Amtrak said all of its long-distance trains would be suspended by Thursday, including three others — The Crescent (New York-New Orleans), The Silver Meteor (New York-Miami), and The Palmetto (New York-Savannah) — that make stops in North Carolina.
The Crescent, which stops in Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, Charlotte and Gastonia, was suspended as of Wednesday. The Palmetto, with stops in Rocky Mount, Selma, Wilson and Fayetteville, will be canceled starting Thursday.
In a statement Monday, Amtrak said the initial cancellations could be followed by “impacts to all long distance and most state-supported routes. These adjustments are necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals prior to freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached.”
Cooling off period ends Friday
Amtrak says it is reaching out to people who have tickets on the affected trains and either offering to rebook on a later date or provide a full refund.
The unions that represent most of the freight railroad employees have agreed to proposed wage increases included in a tentative agreement with the nation’s largest carriers. But two of the unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division, are also insisting on better working conditions, including on-call policies and time off for medical appointments.
The unions have not said they will definitely go on strike. But a 30-day federally mandated cooling off period ends Friday, and the railroads, including Amtrak, are preparing for one.
This story was originally published September 14, 2022 10:52 AM.
Read the full article here