Amtrak cancels all long-distance routes amid looming rail strike

Amtrak said it is canceling all long-distance trips starting Thursday at midday looming rail strike which could disrupt the US economy, resulting in $2 billion a day in lost productivity.

The potential work stoppage stems from a labor dispute between railroad companies and their unionized workforces. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement this week, the strike could begin on Friday.

A Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News Wednesday evening that dinner had been ordered and talks in Washington between federal officials, railroad executives and railroad union leaders were ongoing.

President Biden had received updates and followed the calls closely throughout the day, including after he returned to the White House from Detroit on Wednesday night.

While Amtrak is not involved in the ongoing negotiations between the two sides, a work stoppage would affect passenger service because nearly all routes outside the Northeast Corridor operate on tracks maintained and shipped by freight railroads. The announcement comes after the passenger train service was cancelled three long-distance routes earlier this week in anticipation of the strike.

Suspending all long-haul routes is “necessary to ensure that trains can reach their terminals prior to the disruption of freight rail service if a negotiated settlement is not reached,”[ads1]; Amtrak said in a statement to CBS News.

It added, “Amtrak will only operate trains this week that we can assure will have enough time to reach their final destinations by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, September 16.”

Most train travel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor — such as the Acela train that runs between Boston and Washington, DC — will not be affected by the cancellations, Amtrak said. Acela will continue to run a full schedule.

Amtrak said it is reaching out to customers with tickets on the canceled routes and will allow them to change their reservation or receive a full refund without cancellation fees. If a customer changes to another travel date, Amtrak said it will waive any difference in fares for departures through Oct. 31.

Here are suspended routes with the dates when the trains will stop passenger traffic:

From Tuesday 13 September:

  • Southwest manager
  • Empire Builder
  • California Zephyr
  • Train #421 section of the Texas Eagle (Los Angeles-San Antonio)

Wednesday 14 September:

  • The city of New Orleans
  • Coastal starlight
  • Crescent
  • Lake Shore Limited
  • Silver Star
  • Sunset Limited
  • Texas Eagle

Thursday 15 September:

  • Car train
  • Capitol Limited
  • Cardinal
  • Palmetto (south of Washington)

Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.

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