News & Reviews News Wire Federal judge sides with Union Pacific in Metra commuter dispute

Federal judge sides with Union Pacific in Metra commuter dispute

By Brian Schmidt | September 24, 2021

Metra had sought to show that UP had an obligation to continue to provide service

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Passenger train passes brick interlocking tower
A Metra Union Pacific West line train passes the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern tower at West Chicago, Ill., on Aug. 22, 2020. [TRAINS: David Lassen]
CHICAGO – Union Pacific has won a key legal ruling in its long-running dispute with Metra regarding operations of three commuter routes.

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that UP has no common carrier obligation to provide commuter service on the UP North, UP West, and UP Northwest Lines. Metra had sought to show that UP had an obligation to continue to provide service on the three routes.

But UP, which provides crews for the Metra service, disagreed, and wants Metra to operate the commuter service itself or find another operator.

The judge’s ruling won’t immediately affect service on the lines, and UP said in a statement that it will work with Metra on a “smooth transfer service with no disruption.”

A Metra spokesman said the agency was reviewing its options in light of the judge’s ruling.

14 thoughts on “Federal judge sides with Union Pacific in Metra commuter dispute

  1. The Class 1s are reducing in every category in the last three years, including this one. They have reduced employees, cars, locomotives, route miles, maintenance shops, hump yards, train starts, customers and suppliers.

  2. I am well aware of the train counts Ed, as I run that line. UP needs one track just to stage freights that cant get into or out of the city. Single track CTC? So you are saying UP should run with one mainline between Chicago and the end of Suburban service at Elburn? Then why stop there based on your CTC analogy? May as well rip up the second track from Elburn west and make long sidings. The operation would quickly come to a halt if you have part of your mainline occupied with stopped 15000 ft trains. Where do you run the others?
    I have run on all three tracks during a Suburban run just to get around freights, and sometimes we get stuck behind them. One main for freights? I dont think so.
    I guess what a lot of us are asking down here is why the rush to unload it now? Well actually, we do know why. But, they have run the service since taking over the CNW 26 years ago, and now all of a sudden its an issue.

    1. I’ve been seeing 28 to 32 freights per day on the Geneva Sub this year. That’s not far from the listed capacity limits of single track CTC! Obviously, though, Metra intermingling on the adjacent tracks would affect that theoretical capacity.

  3. A resource sold is lost forever.

    Metra (along with the other commuters and Amtrak) need to realize that they are but “tennants” on freight railroad trackage. If they don’t like the operating conditions the railroads choose, I don’t see anything stopping any of them from acquiring their own right-of-way and building their own railroad.

  4. Ultimately, this is all about money.

    Geneva Subdivision has three tracks most of the way. Since PSR, the closing of the Proviso hump, and the diversion of some intermodal to Global 4, there really aren’t that many freights left. UP could probably handle what’s left with one track! Sell the other two to Metra?

    1. Which track would be freight? Passengers board on the two outside tracks. METRA would shut down if it couldn’t use the middle track. Signals and PTC are dependent on all three tracks being run by the same entity.

      What you suggest Ed is totally different from how the Burlington 3-track is run. Couldn’t possibly work.

  5. It makes sense for the Northwest Line. It’s been almost 20 years since I saw any sizeable freight hauls on that line and you’re lucky to even spot one in a month.

  6. Mr. Neal, the Southwest Subdistrict is under lease to Metra and all the mainline and Metra yard trackage engineering functions (track and signal) are Metra’s responsibility. Metra never had a “purchase of service” contract with NS. Mr. McFarlane is correct that UP wants, and apparently will get, its cake and eat too. I understand why UP doesn’t want to convey the Geneva Subdivision to Metra. It’s the eastern end of their high-trafficked route to West Coast destinations. But there’s little freight on the Harvard and Kenosha Subs and the Milwaukee Sub gives them a parallel route to the latter. But they want to keep them so they can charge Metra trackage rights fees. And yeah, Mr. Jones hit it on the head. Lance Fritz wants one day to go on an earnings call with Wall Street analysts and tell ‘em, “Love us, we dumped 800-1000 contract employees just this past week!”

    1. Metra did have a PSA with Norfolk Southern in the late 80s early 90s. The service was operated with Wabash/N&W/NS employees. The lease of the line to Manhattan was part of NS turning over train operations to Metra.

  7. I’m very confused about this whole story. Metra has no problem using its own crews to operate its trains on freight railroads (on CN for Heritage Corridor and North Central and NS for Southwest Service) and on its own routes (Milwaukee, Electric and Rock Island), so why has it been objecting to taking over service on the UP routes? It seems to me that such a takeover would be favorable for Metra. Is there something I missing here?

  8. I don’t see the big deal here. UP isn’t trying to eliminate the service. They just want Metra to take it over themselves. With the current state of how Class 1 railroads are operating a lot of the operating crews would probably be more than happy to say goodbye to UP and work for Metra. A lot of disgruntled employees on the major railroads.

    1. I disagree with the Judge, and I’m certain the STB would as well…the UP is just be arrogant, nothing more. If the UP wants Metra to take over the service, then sell them right of way as well, and pay Metra to use it since there’s far more commuter service then there is freight, but they don’t want to sell the right of way…UP, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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