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Amtrak cancels trains through Bloomington-Normal due to freight rail talks

Eric Stock
WGLT file
Three Amtrak trains with regular stops in Normal were showing as canceled Thursday afternoon and evening on Amtrak’s website.
Updated: September 15, 2022 at 7:03 AM CDT
President Biden announced early Thursday that the parties had reached a tentative agreement to avoid a shutdown that would go to union members for a vote, NPR reported. Some of the canceled trains mentioned in this story are now back on the schedule as of early Thursday. Visit Amtrak.com for the latest information on individual trains.

Amtrak began to cancel trains scheduled to stop in Bloomington-Normal on Thursday as the country prepared for a freight rail strike that’s already spilling over into passenger service even before it begins.

Three Amtrak trains with regular stops in Normal were showing as canceled Thursday afternoon and evening on Amtrak’s website. Those were on the Lincoln Service (between Chicago and St. Louis) and Texas Eagle (between Chicago and San Antonio then Los Angeles) routes.

Amtrak, which relies on track owned by freight railroads in much of the country, says any schedule changes for Friday will be announced on Thursday.

“Amtrak is closely monitoring the ongoing freight rail – rail labor contract negotiations and is hopeful that parties will reach a resolution soon. The negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce,” Amtrak said in a statement Wednesday night. “While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to our service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week. Such an interruption could significantly impact intercity passenger rail service, as Amtrak operates almost all of our 21,000 route miles outside the Northeast Corridor (NEC) on track owned, maintained, and dispatched by freight railroads.”

Amtrak added: "These adjustments are necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals before freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached."

Amtrak says it will notify impacted and potentially impacted customers about this situation, and will change customer’s reservation to another travel date, waiving any difference in fare for departures through Oct. 31, or provide a full refund without cancelation fees, upon request.

Freight railroads and the unions representing more than 100,000 rail workers have been negotiating a contract for several years. Engineers and conductors are threatening a strike that could bring trains to a halt nationwide on Friday. The stakes are high and a presidential emergency board appointed by President Biden recommended a compromise over the summer that would give workers a 24% increase in wages. Both sides — the unions and the railroad companies — have essentially agreed to the board's economic proposals.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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