With a potential strike among freight railroad workers looming, Metrolink is planning for its service to be disrupted or canceled in Southern California on Friday.
In an email to riders Wednesday, the commuter rail system said it is planning for service disruption to begin as early as 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15.
If a strike does occur, the Orange County Line would be canceled on Friday. However, ticketed passengers would be allowed to ride on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains at no additional costs — albeit, station stops and service times may be different. Amtrak rail service would run between Oceanside and Fullerton with a bus service operating between Fullerton and Los Angeles.
Riverside, Inland-Empire Orange County, and 91/Perris Valley lines would be canceled Friday in the event of a strike.
Antelope Valley and San Bernardino lines, however, would continue uninterrupted, according to the current plans.
As for the Ventura County line, without an agreement preventing a strike, service would only operate been Moorpark and Los Angeles. This means trains 119 and 123, which normally run to Ventura-East, will only go so far as Moorpark. Alternate transportation for those needing to go beyond Moorpark will be provided, according to Metrolink.
Ventura County Line trains 106 and 121 would be canceled.
“Please know as a Metrolink rider myself, I empathize with this frustrating situation,” Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle said. “Providing safe and dependable passenger rail service is our top priority.”
Kettle said Metrolink will provide another update to riders on Thursday night.
Aside from Metrolink, businesses and the federal government are also bracing for disruptions due to the possible rail strike at the end of the week while talks carry on between the largest U.S. freight railroads and their unions.
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.
The unions aren’t allowed to strike before Friday under the federal law that governs railroad contract talks.
Amtrak has 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 already 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 along with several others.
Metrolink encouraged passengers to continue to check the Amtrack Pacific Surfliner trip planner for the latest information.
About 4,900 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19 voted to reject the tentative agreement negotiated by IAM leadership with the railroads, the union said Wednesday. But the IAM agreed to delay any strike by its members until Sept. 29 to allow more time for negotiations and to allow other unions to vote.
There are 12 unions — one with two separate divisions — that must agree to the tentative deals. So far, nine had agreed to tentative deals and three others are still at the bargaining table. IAM members were the first to reject their deal while other votes are expected Wednesday.
The tentative deals are based on the recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board that President Joe Biden appointed this summer that called for 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses in a five-year deal that’s retroactive to 2020. The deal also includes one additional paid leave day a year and higher health insurance costs.
The key unions that represent the conductors and engineers who drive trains are holding out in the hope that railroads will agree to go beyond those recommendations and address some of their concerns about unpredictable schedules and strict attendance policies that they say make it difficult to take any time off.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.