Amtrak suspends several long-distance routes as railroad strike looms

FAN Editor

Amtrak has canceled some of its long-distance routes as a potential freight railroad strike looms. 

An Amtrak spokesperson told FOX Business that while the company is hopeful that U.S. railroads and rail unions will reach a resolution in the contract negotiations, it has already “begun phased adjustments” in preparation for possible freight railroad service interruption later this week.

Negotiations do not involve Amtrak or its workforce, but many of its trains operate over freight railroad tracks. 

“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,” the spokesperson said. 


As part of its “initial adjustments,” Amtrak already canceled several of its long-distance trains because there wouldn’t be enough time for them to reach their destinations before a strike or lockout would be allowed to begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Amtrak suspended its California Zephyr and Empire Builder lines that run from Chicago to the West Coast, and starting Wednesday it will stop running its City of New Orleans, Starlight and Texas Eagle lines and several others.


An Amtrak worker walks next to an Amtrak train during a station stop on December 9, 2021 in Fullerton, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Commuter railroads would also be affected. In Chicago, Metra warned its riders that it wouldn’t be able to run most of its trains if there is a strike.

However, only a small number of Northeast Regional departures would be impacted, according to Amtrak. 

Both railroads and unions have been facing mounting pressure to reach an agreement including from the White House, which said a shutdown of the U.S. rail system would be unacceptable. 


“We have made crystal clear to the interested parties the harm that American families, business and farmers and communities would experience if they were not to reach a resolution,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. 

The railroads have already started to curtail shipments of hazardous materials and have announced plans to stop hauling refrigerated products ahead of Friday’s strike deadline. Now businesses that rely on Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern and other railroads to deliver their raw materials and finished products have started planning for the worst.


Biden administration officials are also scrambling to develop a plan to use trucks, ships and planes to try to keep the most crucial chemicals and other goods moving if the railroads stop rolling.

Amtrak passenger train departs in Chicago

Amtraks California Zephyr passenger train departs Chicago Union Station in Chicago, Illinois, on March 2, 2022. (Luke Sharrett/AFP via Getty Images) (LUKE SHARRETT/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In the meantime, Amtrak plans to inform impacted and potentially impacted customers of the situation and will offer to change their reservation to another travel date. The railroad service will also waive any difference in fare for departures through Oct. 31 or offer passengers a full refund without cancelation fees.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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