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Metra asks court to revisit ruling on UP dispute

By | October 26, 2021

Commuter agency’s filing says September decision includes ‘errors of law and fact’

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An outbound Metra UP North train arrives at Winthrop Harbor, Ill., with a privately owned commuter coach behind the locomotive. Metra is asking a court to review its ruling that UP has no obligation to offer commuter service. (Trains: David Lassen)

CHICAGO — Metra is seeking review of a September federal court ruling that Union Pacific is not obligated to continue operating rail service for the Chicago-area commuter operator.

The Cook County Record reports Metra is arguing U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso committed a “manifest injustice” in a September ruling that UP has no common-carrier obligation to continue providing service on three lines [see “Federal judge sides with Union Pacific …,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 24, 2021].

Metra has argued UP has a common-carrier obligation to continue offering the service even in absence of a contract. Union Pacific, which provides crews and other support for the service on the UP North, West, and Northwest lines, wants Metra to take over the operation or find another operator.

In an Oct. 20 filing, Metra says Alonso “committed manifest errors of fact and law” when he denied the commuter agency the right to file a counterclaim against UP, arguing it had the right to do so based on a 2017 purchase of service agreement as well as a 2021 agreement.”The 2017 Grant Agreement contains a clear contractual obligation on the part of UP to provide commuter rail service,” the Metra filing asserts.

7 thoughts on “Metra asks court to revisit ruling on UP dispute

  1. As I’ve commented before in previous Newswire articles on this, it is UP’s addiction to PSR, raising “shareholder value”, “reducing headcount”, and lowering OR that is driving this. During the runup to UP’s acquisition of C&NW, they never to my knowledge expressed any reservations on inheriting the C&NW’s purchase of service agreement with Metra. What changed? UP drank a huge glass of Hunter Harrison’s brew. And Lance Fritz dreams of going on an earnings call and bragging on how many employees they shed after their plans go into effect. If UP was offering to convey the Harvard and Kenosha Subdivisions that see little freight, along with the train dispatching, to Metra ownership, then I would say maybe they are dealing in good faith and with good intentions. What I would like see is a comparison of how much Metra is shelling out to UP under PofS vs. what Metra’s costs would be in my above scenario plus taking over employment of the Geneva Sub crews and support facilities with trackage rights.

  2. I fail to see how a contract to provide operating services under a contract with a specific expiration date makes UP a common carrier on this rail segment. So I side with UP on this matter. But I fully agree that the mirage of PSR benefits is creating serious customer problems in the “last mile”. If the Class 1 roads are not careful and don’t supply major improvements in timely customer delivery and pickup, the Staggers Act may limp off to oblivion when Congress gets its little minds aroused.

    1. John: The greater Chicago area is already heavily developed. Unless you expect Metra to build new lines where highways already exist, there is no way that Metra could build new rail lines which would substitute for the existing Union Pacific lines.

  3. Our cat Burlington doesn’t like UPRR. He says we shouldn’t ever go railfanning along UPRR routes. He points out, as one example, the UPRR’s Butler Yard (Milwaukee and Wauwatosa) near our home is now little more than a parking lot for laid-up locomotives.

    Honestly, how can a major corporation like UPRR be led by such total dunderheads?

  4. UP issues started not long after the legacy CNW Commuter people retired. Since then, there have been continuous battles in the press and privately between Metra and the UP.

    After UP moved dispatching to Omaha, Metra schedules went to hell due to constant freight interference issues. It was either NS consists coming up from Clearing to Proviso, or east bound freights into Proviso with their arse sticking out at the Elmhurst switch and blocking Metra trains to pass through.

    UP finally agreed to hold all the NS traffic coming and going to Clearing until rush hour was over, and the extra long consists from the west would come in at night when Metra wasn’t running.

    All traffic in and out of Proviso must cross the tracks used by Metra. UP just doesn’t like nor desire to run their freight traffic to “precision” like timing that Metra requires. That says more about how UP operates.

    Let’s face it, CNW may have been “old school” in many ways, but they knew and understood what their obligations were to the commuting public.

    The fact they want to dump the employees (but not the dispatch control) to Metra means they don’t want to be the ones propping up the RRF for the legacy staff.

    UP still complains that they have to go into Chicago “British style” because all the stations were built that way.

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