Amtrak, the premier passenger rail service provider in America, has canceled all of its long-distance trains in anticipation of an imminent freight workers strike.
Though Amtrak does not employ freight rail union workers and does not transport freight, Amtrak does utilize many rail lines owned by third parties. These third-party rail lines would be shut down in the event of a strike since no dispatchers would be available and temporarily defunct trains would block many tracks, Forbes reports.
“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,” an Amtrak spokesperson said. “Such an interruption could significantly impact intercity passenger rail service.”
Among other routes, Amtrak has already suspended:
- California Zephyr: Chicago-Denver-San Francisco
- City of New Orleans: Chicago to New Orleans
- Empire Builder: Chicago-Minneapolis-Spokane-Portland/Seattle
- Southwest Chief: Chicago to Los Angeles
- Texas Eagle: Los Angeles to San Antonio (Train #421)
Because Amtrak owns all of the tracks it utilizes in the Northeast Corridor, 97% of the New England lines will not be affected and will continue to run as scheduled.
Amtrak stated that it hopes to give customers at least 24 hours notice before their trains are canceled. The company also promises to help them reschedule or to issue a full refund in cases in which rescheduling is not possible.
Right now, freight companies and two major freight workers unions are in the midst of a 60-day “cooling off” period after the two sides failed to come to a contract agreement back in July. The 60 days expires on Thursday, so if no agreement is reached at the 11th hour, 115,000 workers could begin walking off the job as early as 12:01 a.m. EST this Friday.
Should the freight workers elect to strike, many supply chains will be delayed significantly, driving up prices amidst rampant inflation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims that such an outcome would be “an economic disaster.”
The Biden administration has attempted to intervene in the impasse to prevent a strike, and thus, another supply chain disruption.
“All parties need to stay at the table, bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues, and come to an agreement,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday. “A shutdown of our freight rail system is an unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people, and all parties must work to avoid just that.”