UP no longer wants to run lines for Metra
Will 2020 be the year Metra begins operating three Union Pacific Railroad commuter routes in its own right?
Freight railroad Union Pacific currently runs commuter trains between the city and suburbs as part of an agreement with Metra, but that pact expires Feb. 29.
And it appears Union Pacific is ready to hand over the reins, a move that could be a game-changer for Metra, which now operates seven of its 11 routes.
Passenger service will continue uninterrupted, officials from both sides said, but there's a lot of unknowns about what a new deal with UP could bring, regardless of who operates the trains. The routes are UP North, UP West and UP Northwest.
"We are negotiating a new agreement that gives Metra direct responsibility for operating its commuter lines through a services transfer," UP spokeswoman Kristen South said.
"This will allow Union Pacific to focus on moving customers' goods in and out of Chicago and across the nation. With the direct management of additional employees and equipment, Union Pacific believes Metra has the potential to realize financial savings and other benefits."
The issue is playing out in a federal lawsuit, although the case is sealed to the public.
Metra UP passengers are the second-largest block of Metra riders, next to the BNSF Line.
"This legal matter will not impact train service, but it has a bearing on negotiations between Metra and UP over how service will continue on the lines and what it will cost after the current agreement between Metra and UP expires," spokesman Michael Gillis said.
"Metra has an obligation to ensure uninterrupted service while protecting the interests of our customers and the taxpayers of northeastern Illinois and the entire state."
South said that "there are fundamental principles that we believe require the help of a court to resolve as we work through this process. Due to the confidential nature of the negotiations, we cannot provide further details.
Both railroads said they hope to reach an "amicable agreement."